Should You Replace Your Dog Bowl With A Slow Feeder?

Do you have a chow hound in your household, a dog that inhales food? The kind of dog that can polish off a mean in about five seconds? I do, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it until I discovered the wonderful world of slow feeders.

Slow feeders simply slow your dog or cat down by creating an impediment to gobbling up all their food as fast as they can. Slow feeders limit the amount of food your pet can get with every bite. Even people are being instructed by doctors to slow down at meal time and chew their food to help digestion.

The same applies to our furry friends. Sammie, the English Pointer, is one of those dogs who can’t eat fast enough. She would suck down her food, then ten minutes later she’d be belching. I thought that couldn’t possibly be good for her. Now her slow feeders have corrected that behavior. Meals that were gobbled in mere seconds now take ten minutes.

Another benefit is that it gives your dog something to do. While Sammie needed the slow feeder to change her eating style, I put my German Shorthair Pointer on a slow feeder just to give her a challenge. She thinks it’s a game.

Larger breeds susceptible to bloat may benefit most from slowing down their meals. Canine bloat or twisted stomach occurs when a dog eats too quickly and gulps down a lot of air. The air turns into gas in the stomach and causes the abdomen to swell, putting pressure on the heart, lungs and other organs. In serious cases, the stomach rotates and blood vessels and nerves get pinched. The condition can be fatal.

Slow feeders can’t guarantee to prevent bloat but they can help modify the eating behavior that often leads to it.

The market offers a wide variety of slow feeders, and they all work a little differently. Some are harder for a dog to learn than others.

The first video demonstrates the Busy Buddy, which took Sammie the longest to figure out. It’s a container that releases food as the dog plays with it. I almost gave up on this feeder. When Sammie didn’t figure it out initially, I replaced it with something a little easier. But when we tried the Busy Buddy again later, she caught on. Maybe she just needed more time to think this one through.

The Busy Buddy (available in small, medium and large sizes) is designed to be a treat dispenser, but I use it as a slow feeder. With this dispenser you must be thoughtful about the size of the kibble to be used. If your kibble is very small, it will fall out too easily. As you’ll see in the video, I’ve removed the rope so Sammie has a higher success rate with each tip of the bottle.

The second feeder is the Northmate “Green,” which earned the 2013 Global Pet Expo Best-in-Show award for best new dog product. Green is a one-piece molded feeder of hard phthalate-free plastic. Green consists of 43 “blades of grass,” in several sizes and all rounded at the top. These blades replicate the sensation of sniffing through the grass for discoveries, hence the name “Green.”

Green is a one-size-fits-all model designed for both dry and wet food, and it’s extremely easy to use by both owner and pup. I really like the wide base of this feeder as it doesn’t tip or even move while in use.

Third up is the Kyjen Coral Slo-Bowl Slow Feeder, designed as a natural, healthy and playful experience for dogs. This design requires your dogs to forage for their meals. It presents a maze in which dogs can chase their food, making mealtime a fun hunting game. Dogs quickly learn to chase their food through the maze of ridges and valleys and, because the Slo-Bowl “rewards” their play with bits of food, dogs become more engaged as the meal goes on.

I like this one for my GSP, but some reviewers find it difficult for small dogs. Kyjen does offer other models for smaller dogs.

The last group of slow feeders are the interactive puzzles. The puzzles usually hide the food in multiple compartments with covers that your pet (these are designed for dogs, cats and even ferrets) must remove to reach the food.

Nina Ottosson is the leader in this arena with multiple toys under wide distribution with the most popular being the Dog Smart, Dog Brick and Dog Tornado. All three are available in both plastic and wood, and the Ottosson line offers several degrees of difficulty within each product.

If your dog can benefit from any of these features, stop by your local pet supply store and discuss slow feeders with the staff. And we always advise that you check in with your vet regarding all changes in your feeding regimen.


Please Fence Me In

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  –  Margaret Mead fenceproject1

You never know when a bit of internet surfing can turn in to a mission.

Eric DeTemmerman was surfing YouTube one day when he stumbled across videos posted by the Coalition to Unchain Dogs.

“They’ve done hundreds of builds,” said Eric, referring to the group’s mission to build fenced enclosures for dog owners who had previously relied on chains to contain their pets. “I sat and watched like 50 of them.”

These videos moved him. He laughed. He cried. He smiled. Then he said to himself, “I’m gonna do this.” And he did.

Eric sat down and wrote a 50-page business plan, then he found a dog in need and raised $500 to finance the build. He thought he might do three builds. That was two years and 50 builds ago.

So on almost every weekend from March through October, there is a “build.” A “build” is the act of clearing the yard, building the fence and prepping the dog. It requires a lot of hands on deck, so Eric sends out a Facebook message and counts on at least 15 volunteers to show up. And they do. One recent weekend, I did. And what a site I found.  

1053FenceProject3Rosa, a lovable 40-pound mutt, had been selected for this build. She had been chained in a trashy backyard. A household of young parents with at least four kids under age 10 had left little time for Rosa or the yard.

Then the volunteer team descended. Within an hour, all the trash was picked up and tossed in a truck. The weeds were gone and the home’s skeleton of a porch had a new roof.

T-posts were spaced and the post setters got to business, hammering the posts in the ground. Fencing was measured and laid out. Gate assembly began. While the fence went up, the doghouse was decorated and fitted with a cozy mat and bed.

Treats were sprinkled, a little pool brought in. The fence was stretched and, with a volunteer at each post, everything was zip-tied tight.FenceProject2

After the lock was set, the pool filled, and the doghouse positioned under the new porch roof, Rosa emerged fresh from her appointment in a mobile grooming salon.

FenceProject4Then the moment that makes it all worthwhile: Rosa was released in her newly fenced yard. Happiness sprang through her legs as she played, chased a ball, jumped in and out of the pool, found her treats and loved up everyone on site. If you want to see a truly joyful, grateful animal, find an opportunity to watch a dog that just got a yard after life tethered on a chain. It warms your heart! And in this case, the kids were just as happy. The family obviously loved their dog, and Rosa loved them. That was clear.

Donating a few hours (we were done by 1 p.m.) to clean up a yard, build a fence and become part of the team that creates so much happiness beats just about any other way I could have spent that time.

You should know that my fence-building skills are nothing to brag about. I’m not strong enough to set posts or artistic enough to decorate the doghouse, but I can pull a zip tie with the best of them. I tightened all the gate clamps, then learned how to extend the bottom of the fence to prevent Rosa from digging out. Apparently, I’m also good at sprinkling treats. If I can make myself useful, then you can, too.

The true payoff was watching how joyful Rosa and her kids were once we were finished. It was mesmerizing. We all just stood there for the longest time with dopey grins on our faces as we watched them play. We said “awwww” a lot.

Eric leads this Des Moines group, but he isn’t alone in his quest to liberate chained dogs. I’ve listed several Midwest groups that would love to talk to you about donating a few hours:

Eric’s group in Des Moines:


The Craigslist Controversy

I’ll admit it. I love Craigslist. It’s great for selling furniture, finding purses and getting your next dog.

WHOA, WHAT!? Yep, I said it. It’s OK to get a dog on Craigslist. And that means it’s OK to put a dog on Craigslist. But like so many other things in life, it’s all about doing it the right way.

Our German Shorthair Pointer was 10 months old, spending most of her time in a crate and needed a new home. Her owner had just gotten divorced and recognized she had too many responsibilities to dedicate any time to this dog, but she wanted to find it a good home. So she tried Craigslist.

We had been looking for a young Pointer that could get along with our barn cats. She fit the bill, so I replied to the ad.

Libby, far left, joins the office staff.

Libby, far left, joins the office staff.

In my opinion, our dog’s previous owner did everything right. She advertised her dog but did not put up a photo. She priced her dog at $200. At that price only people serious about that pet were going to call. And, she insisted she be able to do a home visit BEFORE any transaction would take place. We welcomed showing her the farm her dog would now call home and the other Pointer she would have as a buddy.

Now before the arguments start, let me just say that I realize Craigslist is used by puppy mills, scammers and just down-right creepy people who buy, sell and give away pets for many wrong reasons. But should the success stories be ignored?

Of course we could have tried to flip the dog, or we could have been creepy and kept the dog locked up or abused. The truth is, no one really knows how another person is going to care for an animal that needs a new home. That means dogs that are adopted from rescues, horses that are sold, or barn cats that are given away are always at some risk.

But if you must rehome a pet, use Craigslist knowing that the scammers are shopping there. For that very reason DO NOT give your pet away. That will attract the category of people looking to “flip” animals — that is, buying low and selling high. Free is even better for them.

It’s a fact of life that there are people out there who want animals to sell as bait dogs, research experiments and puppy mill breeders or worse. It’s repulsive but it’s out there.

Be wary, charge a fee, insist on a vet reference AND a home visit. If it doesn’t feel right, your pet is most likely better off at one of the many rescues, shelters or breed-specific groups that have adoption programs, foster homes and the ability to screen adoption applicants.

Craigslist isn’t perfect. In a perfect world, people would never give up their family pets. But life is messy. It’s ok to use Craigslist to find a pet or even to place a pet; just do everything you can to verify that the pet’s new home is the right new home.

Muzzlebump :)

Fluff & Tuff Defeats Toy Terrorists

Sometimes I think I might as well give my dogs money to chew on because they can destroy a normal dog toy in minutes. Lasting a day is notable.

For gnawing, deer antlers win out around here, paws down. But this search has been for toys, those that can be tossed and tugged by people and dogs alike.

We have two pointers and a shepherd mix. If there was some sort of competition for ripping out seams and gutting toys, they would be international champions.Sammy at Easter

So we are always on the lookout for a toy made to last. For years we’ve been disappointed, but 2014 has been a good year for dog toy manufacturers. We’ve found several that are holding up.

Now, mind you, I would not waste your time with toys that lasted a couple days or weeks. These have held up for months — truly noteworthy! Today I’ll tell you about my new favorite plush toy.

Let me give huge props to this new line, called Fluff & Tuff, that I discovered at Petsakes in Des Moines. I have been amazed by one Fluff & Tuff toy, “Peanut the Chipmunk,” because it has been in my house for several months now and still has all seams intact. This line was new at Petsakes and I thought if they were confident enough to put the word “Tuff” in their name and “durable” in their description, I’d give them a try.

tagAt $11.75, I was game, but my expectations were not high and for good reason: Peanut had a tail. Those of you who live with canine toy terrorists know what I mean. The first thing that goes is anything that sticks out—eyes, ears, tails, feet. Any cute detail is amputated immediately.

So as we all do with the “new” toy, I let them play with it a bit but put it up. But after a while we all eventually forget to take that new toy away and they play with it to death.

But darn if Peanut kept his tail, his seams, his ears and even his nose!toy

So I looked this company up. Good news is that this is a Detroit-based company; the bad news is that the products are made in China, BUT I believe the company owners are doing an exceptional job of quality control. These toys are produced in a factory certified by the International Council of Toy Industries. Didn’t expect that.

Then, all toys are double scanned to verify there are no metal objects. Nice.

An ultra plush fabric with a mesh liner is used, the seams are double stitched and concealed. I didn’t think it was possible to hide a seam from my two Pointers.

And they list a new, non-toxic polyester fiber stuffing. Can polyester be toxic? Well, it is polyester. At our house everything usually gets gutted and tossed before there is any chance of ingestion.

So Peanut lives on and will likely be joined by other toys from the Fluff & Tuff stable.

libIf you have a toy terrorist in your house I recommend you give a Fluff & Tuff toy a try.

Muzzlebump :)

Transport Driving: What’s In It For You?

I’m relatively new to animal-rescue transport, but I can tell you I will be helping the transport teams as long as I have a driver’s license.


If you’re new to the subject, let me toss out a quick definition:  Pick up a dog or group of dogs at Point A and take them to Point B.  It’s easy.

There are groups all over the country, from your local shelter to Pilots for Paws, who coordinate getting dogs from overpopulated areas with high turnover kill shelters to under-populated areas with coordinated foster homes and more no-kill shelters or breed rescues.

The group I volunteer with is Paws on Wheels.  Every single weekend they start in Altus, Oklahoma, generally with about 10 – 20 dogs and the journey starts toward destinations in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.


To get there it takes a village.  Drivers usually volunteer for a leg of about 80 – 120 miles, one way.  My last transport was a two-hour drive down to Bethany, Missouri, to pick up nine little souls (six of them puppies) and deliver them to a driver in Des Moines who was headed to Hampton, Iowa.

I was down and back by lunch time.

A sweet little Pittie mix

When I tell my friends about my recent transports, or post pictures on Facebook, I often hear how that is so giving of me – so selfless.  Well, that’s one way to look at it.  But the truth is, I get plenty out of these runs.  I meet the coolest people (many have their kids with them to assist and learn the value of volunteering), some who do this every single weekend.  I usually learn something – maybe about a new type of collar or crate, special food or medication. Last transport I learned that a good audio book calms even the most nervous little Min Pin.

And you just can’t beat it for the gratification of helping those who can’t help themselves.


I urge you to try it. You just need a dependable vehicle and the commitment to show up on time.  If you’re reading this I already know you love dogs.

Just call your local rescue or shelter. They will hook you up. If you want to check out groups who travel through central Iowa, I recommend AHeinz57 and Paws on Wheels:

AHeinz57 – – click on their Volunteer Application

AHeinz57 – on Facebook 

Paws on Wheels – on Facebook

Email Paws on Wheels:

Muzzlebump! :-)


If Your Pets Could Talk…

Equestrian, pet-lover and entrepreneur, Cathy Erickson, who has built a reputation for producing annual pet events that are as fun to attend as they are to create, now shares heart-warming, funny-bone tickling pet stories from the heartland and offers common-sense, honest Midwestern insights, useful for pets everywhere – year round.

The hallmarks of Midwestern values are tradition, humility and honesty. Born and raised in the Midwest, Cathy grew up participating in 4-H, and has spent her entire life around animals. Even though pets are her passion and she makes it all look easy, Cathy is not afraid of the hard work it takes to produce events that deliver the greatest possible value for both the attendees and the exhibitors.

As a natural extension of her pet expo mission “to help educate pet-owners and promote the health and well-being of pets,” the MuzzleBump blog was launched. The blog aims to provide pet owners and pet professionals with a steady stream of pet-related information, from recalls and food safety notifications to appreciations of animal-heroes and other “muzzle bumps.”

Written from her years of experience and based on the advice of local and national experts, Cathy helps you understand what your pets might say they need or want – if your pets could talk.