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Devin Scannell

Product Reviews

Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash Review

by on May 15, 2017
Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash

We’re highlighting relatively inexpensive and simple products this season that we think will make your experience as you get out on the trails with your dog this spring just that much more enjoyable. We decided to change it up this month and bring you a dual review with perspectives by both Jason (Backcountry K-9 founder) and Devin (content and social media) on the Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash.

The Quick Draw leash is a short leash that you clip to your dog’s collar, then wrap and securely around your dog’s neck with a hook-and-loop closure.  The leash is stored during activity in this fashion but is easily converted back to an already-attached-to-your-dog leash simply by pulling on the red tab at your dog’s neck. 

Why did you initially decide to try out the Quick Draw Leash?

Ruffwear Quick Draw LeashJason: We spend our summers at our camper in a private campground exploring the adjacent Kettle Moraine state forest and nearby state parks. All allow dogs – our favorite state park has a dedicated dog beach on Lake Michigan – but all also have strict leash laws. When we’re in and out of the truck and on our way to the beach, the Quick Draw was an obvious choice to make sure I always had leashed control of two big excited labs.

Devin: In the past, I’ve used a small, elasticized leash that I wrap around my waist when I run with Bella in off-leash areas. Where we live in Boulder, CO, there is a great off-leash program that allows us to let Bella run free on some of our favorite trails.  However, the program still requires that owners have leashes at all times in case of unexpected issues (wildlife, trail closures, livestock, trailhead parking lots, road crossings, etc…). The small leash worked great for a while until Bella stretched it so much by pulling that the length didn’t work to fit around my waist correctly anymore.  I decided to give the Quick Draw leash a try because I liked the fact that Bella could easily carry it for me, and that I could skip the step of always having to fumble with a clip while trying to regain control of Bella on a run.

What do you think about the design of the Quick Draw Leash?

Jason: I love it; it’s painless to use. The new style Crux clip is easy to clip and is very light. It adjusts to fit a wide range of neck sizes and with the Velcro closure, it lays pretty nice over my dogs’ collars. Both the clip and the Velcro closure are one-hand operable – key for me when I’m trying to get control over two kids and two excited dogs.

Devin: It’s really easy to use, and I especially like how the end you pull when you want to turn it into a leash is red and has an easy-to-grab pull tab.  Sometimes, the part that clips to the collar is a little awkward if it isn’t laying flat when you attach the hook-and-loop part, but once the leash is properly adjusted for your dog’s neck, it helps it to sit right.  So far the velcro has held up well, and there’s a traffic handle-type loop that helps hold the leash securely when needed.

Where/How do you use the Quick Draw Leash the most?

Ruffwear Quick Draw LeashJason: By far we use the Ruffwear Quick Draw leash most when transferring in and out of the truck. Sometimes it’s just to hop out and clip on another leash – like the Ruffwear Roamer if we’re at the beach – but it allows for easy, quick control for two dogs who are hyper focused on whatever fun thing is about to happen.

Devin:  So far we’ve used the Quick Draw Leash on every single off-leash trail run and hike we’ve been on since we purchased it. This would also be a great purchase for use at a dog park or when camping:  basically, anywhere you’d appreciate a leash instantaneously appeAaring on your dog when he or she is loose. It’s so small and lightweight, it’s even small enough that it fits in my purse just as easily as my trail running pack.

Anything else you want to add about the Quick Draw Leash?

Jason: The Quick Draw is meant for convenient, quick control. It’s definitely not meant to take a long walk. By design, it’s short and there is no real handle for you. Also, it may not work great for small dogs, especially if you are tall.

Devin:  It’s important to understand that this leash isn’t designed for long walks or extended use on an epic adventure.  Its short length would be pretty restrictive after more than 15 minutes or so of use.  Also, when using the leash around traffic, I’ve found it’s very important to hold the leash at the gray loop, rather than just gripping the red tab.  Your dog can jerk the leash out of your hand since there is no designated handle in order to save on bulk and weight.

Who would you recommend the Quick Draw Leash to?

Ruffwear Quick Draw LeashJason: The Quick Draw is pretty versatile and fits a wide range of scenarios – quick control at the dog park, control in and out of the car where there are leash laws or dangers like traffic, and quick control when you’re off-leash hiking or running.

Devin: I would recommend the Ruffwear Quick Draw to anyone who does any activity with their dog.  It’s simple, small, and at a retail price of $19.95, it’s as affordable as a collar. This product would be a great buy for someone with multiple dogs (even two collars are affordable), and would also make a great gift for virtually any active dog owner!  This product has become one of the most-used items in Bella’s gear closet.

Check out the Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash

Product Reviews

A Review of the Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag Carrier

by on March 20, 2017
Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag Carrier

It’s not secret that Bell is a gear hound.  From horseback riding to SUPing, trail running, snowboarding, backpacking, fly fishing and skijoring, Bella has activity-specific gear that tends to rotate through storage and an active coat-closet phase by the door, depending on the season.  Even her collars and leashes have become pretty specialized.  We can now say that Bella has one sole piece of gear with a permanent place by the front door that we take on every single adventure:  The Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag Carrier.  

Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag CarrierThe Turdlebag is a small, wax-lined canvas bag that holds a full poop bag, eliminating the gross-factor by a significant amount.  Instead of only a thin plastic bag, you now have a sturdy, tear-proof, not-so-stinky canvas bag to hold or attach to a leash or pack that allows you to continue your adventures without worry.  This discrete item essentially looks like a small stuff sack with a roll-top, with a few extra features specific to dog owners.  Whether preventing a backcountry poop bag gear explosion or keeping your hands free to shake with your neighbors as you walk the block, the poop bag will help eliminate odors and make the responsible side of dog ownership a much more pleasant experience.

Background

Seemingly small and simple, you might not expect such an item to be so life-changing. Why do we love this item? Because Bella poops, no matter where we go. Ok, maybe this is an unsavory topic to discuss, but as a dog owner, you know that there is no getting around it. Dog waste contaminates beautiful areas. Even on low-populated trails and wilderness areas, we know that leaving Bella’s poo behind can have an impact on the health of the surrounding ecosystem, as well as the experience of others walking out on the trail. Who wants to be out hiking, only to walk by dozens of poop bags left on the trail? Packing out dog poop is the responsible thing to do (occasionally. on backpacking trips we bury dog waste according to human standards and regulations for the area).  Dog poop is also one of the main reasons that trails become closed to dogs, and nordic ski resorts that allow skijoring are especially sensitive to dog waste.

The Need (#PoopProblems)

Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag CarrierThere’s no question that we’ve handled hundreds of pounds of Bella’s excrement while adventuring. While most dog owners *mostly* get used to the reality of handling dog poop bags, stuffing a full bag into the side of your pack on a hot day is pretty nauseating. I’ve been on hot trail runs where I nearly lost my lunch on a summit due to a sudden waft from a steamy, stashed bag.  To help solve this problem, Bella has a Ruffwear Single Track Pack for trail running, in which she carries her own bags. However, it takes a delicate maneuver to tuck all corners into the sleek pack, and then you’d better cross your fingers and toes while you hope that the bag doesn’t catch in the zipper.  

Even after a successfully loaded poop bag stash, it’s oftentimes miles before we find a trash can, and frequently trailheads are not be equipped with trash removal services (yep, that poop is now riding along in the car with us back home). We’ve perfected the technique of carefully shutting the tied end of the bag in the trunk so that the loaded end is outside the car for the drive.  Now I say perfected, except that one time last weekend when I miscalculated how much room I had on the tied end, and the bag…well…exploded.  I’ve also had nightmares of falling on my pack while snowboarding or setting it down too roughly, causing a loaded bag stashed in an outside pocket of my own pack to burst or rip. So far, luckily, this particular nightmare has been unfounded.

Whether you’ve had these same experiences, or simply understand the daily struggle of carrying a fully loaded bag in your hands while out walking through the neighborhood, you definitely need the Turdlebag. Admit it…as a dog owner, handling your dog’s poop has become part of your lifestyle.

What Makes the Turdlebag Worth It

The Turdlebag is simple, yet has some really nicely thought-out features.  At one point last summer, I actually considered buying a very small dry sack to serve the same purpose of the Turdlebag.  However, I’m glad I held out for the following reasons:

  • Sturdy, canvas-like material “protects” the bag from ripping or getting excessively squashed, literally offering an extra layer to your peace of mind.
  • Handy snaps make hand-held leash attachment easy, and can also help you attach the bag to backpacks, running belts, etc…
  • A little strap on the bottom acts as a “shake out” handle, allowing for hands-free disposal of the bag inside.
  • Lined canvas and a roll-top design to helps to block smells and keep out rain/snow.  According to the company, the bag is currently 80% smell proof, and they are now working on a 100% scent-proof design.
  • A separate, small external pocket dispenses a small roll of bags.
  • Machine washable (air dry).
  • The company 100% stands by their products and has a simple return policy.
  • If you have two dogs or frequently dog sit, one bag can hold up to 4 full bags from two 35lb or so dogs.

Considerations

  • We’ve so far only tested the bag in cooler winter temperatures, so it’s hard for us to accurately report how well the smell is controlled in heat.  However, we’ve ridden with a full Turdlebag in the car for several hours in the trunk, and didn’t notice any smell.  
  • The Turdlebag is suggested for dogs up to 90lbs. Bella is 60lbs. While we’ve only needed to stash one bag at a time, there’s plenty of room for one or even two more at her size.
  • The bag is a little bulky for ultralight backpacking or trail running.  In the future, an additional design option without the external front dispenser might help cut down on bulk for minimalists. However, we were able to fit a full bag in one side of Bella’s Single Track pack. Two loaded bags inside the Turdlebag probably wouldn’t work.
  • The Turdlebag retails for $20. It might be difficult wrapping your mind around a $20 bag for dog poop but trust us….It’s worth it. I’d definitely pay someone else $20 to clean the exploded poop bag off my car last weekend, or run with bags of Bella’s poo for 10 miles through the foothills of Boulder if I could.

Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag CarrierDetails aside, it’s amazing how much more pleasant it is dealing with poop bags with the Turdlebag.  Mentally, you really do forget that you are holding a bag of your dog’s excrement, and it seriously cuts down on the smell when compared to a waste bag alone.  If you are going to get one article of gear for your dog this spring, in our opinion it should be the Turdlebag. It doesn’t matter what activities you do with your dog… this product will make everything better.  Because let’s be honest….as a dog owner, there’s a lot more poop in your future!

Check out Turdlebag

Uncategorized

Pet Insurance for Active Dogs

by on February 28, 2017
Pet Insurance

Pet insurance.  You’ve thought about it.  You tried justifying it.  But you can’t trust it…or can you?

Unfortunately, many of us have heard horror stories of pet insurance companies providing nothing but a headache.  From adventuring with Bella on trail runs, horseback rides, skijoring, and everything in between, we knew it could be worth at least researching the costs, benefits, and risks of pet insurance.

How often do you take your dog on hikes and into areas where injury risk is higher?  With a little planning and preparation, it should be no problem bringing your dog with you to most places you would normally go outside.  Just as with humans, something unexpected can certainly happen while you’re out adventuring with your canine companion.  Pet insurance should definitely be something you’d want to consider for your own dog, and we’re here to tell you what we’ve learned from our experience!

Pet InsuranceAfter suffering a mysterious lower-back injury in November 2016 during one of our trail runs, Bella was clearly in some pain. To this day, we still don’t know what happened.  She jumped out of the car with stiff front legs, a sure sign (per our Veterinarian neighbor) that a lower-back injury could be a reality.  In the end, what Bella had turned out to be a soft tissue injury to her iliopsoas muscle (the groin).  After an initial visit to the vet, some pain and inflammatory meds, and three visits to a specialist for laser-therapy sessions, we paid about $250 out of pocket.  The rest, about $305, was paid back to us through her insurance provider.  Having this insurance really eased our fears of having to empty pockets, and helped us ensure that Bella was getting the best treatment possible.  

Let’s face it:  if you love your dog as much as we do, you’ll pretty much do anything to get them back to normal – even if it means emptying your pockets.  With pet insurance, you hope that whatever the issue may be, most of your vet bills will be paid for, right?  Not always.  There’s a lot of things that we learned about pet insurance from Bella’s injury, so let’s walk through a few of them:

  1. Pre-existing Conditions:
    Most pet insurance providers will not cover treatments/therapies/bills for anything that they determine to be a pre-existing condition or an injury that existed before your policy began.  This means that when you purchase insurance for your dog, it’s meant to cover them if something traumatic happens during an adventure.
  2. Deductible:
    Just like human insurance, you can choose your deductible.  We chose a $200 deductible, which meant that before anything was paid for by the provider, we had to meet that dollar amount and pay out of pocket.  After that point, the provider will determine if the treatments moving forward are covered.  Make sure you do your research when considering what you want to pay for a deductible.  If our deductible had been higher ($500), most of the treatment wouldn’t have been paid for. Of course, the lower the deductible you choose, the higher your premium will be.   So be sure to weigh the pros and cons of deductible options.
  3. Coverage & Reimbursement:
    We have Bella covered for up to $10,000.  The next level down was $5,000, and we know how quickly medical bills can get out of hand.  You’ll also get to choose the reimbursement percentage.  For us, we felt that 90% would be a good choice if we wanted to see some money back in our pockets.  Our insurance provider made it clear that treatments by licensed veterinarians were covered up to 90% in our policy, and any treatments by a “specialist” (but not a licensed vet) would be covered 80%. So, we got more money back if we made sure that any alternative therapies such as cold laser therapy were performed by a veterinarian, not simply someone who labeled themselves as a homeopathic specialist.  We ended up taking Bella to a licensed vet that specialized in injury rehabilitation, and our claims were still covered 90%. When doing your research, we’d highly recommend that you look for a provider that covers “alternative therapies” – this can include laser, acupuncture, water, and massage therapy.

Our preferred pet insurance provider

We chose PetPlan for Bella’s insurance. Why?

  • A quick turnaround for payments. We had a check in our hands within 14 business days after our claims were received.
  • Fantastic customer service!  They are quick to respond and very knowledgeable.  
  • No additional charge for alternative therapy coverage (acupuncture, laser therapy).  Some other providers we researched required an additional monthly fee just to add alternative therapies to your plan.

After our initial research in 2016, we decided that they were the best choice for us.  Happy with the results, we went back to renew the policy a few weeks ago, only to find out that their previous underwriter had decided to leave the pet insurance industry.  To our dismay, prices had gone up.  Our first reaction was to start researching other insurance providers.  After receiving a few quotes, we discovered that PetPlan was still the cheapest out of the top three we researched, and still covered alternative therapies.  We also discovered that the reason coverage prices went up was because PetPlan required that their new underwriter continued to cover clients that were being treated previously.  What does that tell us?  They care!  Now that we’ve seen how the process works and know we can trust PetPlan, we’ve decided to enroll again with them for 2017 (although we hope not to use it).

Here’s a breakdown of costs and coverage for our two years with PetPlan so far:

2016

  • Total cost:  $335
  • Coverage:  up to $10,000
  • Deductible:  $200
  • Reimbursement:  90%

2017

  • Total cost:  $364
  • Coverage:  up to $10,000
  • Deductible:  $650
  • Reimbursement:  90%

From November until early January, we really focused on giving Bella the rest she needed.  This was particularly hard on the days when she seemed totally normal. Instead of a trail run through the mountains, we opted for a casual walk through the neighborhood.  We also kept her on leash right after her injury, simply to prevent her from running and re-activating the injury.  We also learned as much as we could (through vet recommendations and online articles) about how to help Bella recover, aside from simple rest.  This included twice-daily stretches and massages, hot/cold compresses, and a daily glucosamine supplement. While this time period was stressful and the recovery was much longer than we anticipated, pet insurance gave us the peace of mind that we were giving the Bella the best recovery experience possible.  

As always, do lots of research when you’re making a decision for something as important as pet insurance. Not only do you want the best for your pup, you also want to make sure you’re supporting a company that truly believes in doing the right thing.  Here’s to a happy, healthy, and adventurous 2017!

Product Reviews

A Review of the EzyDog Drive Harness

by on January 28, 2017
EzyDog Drive Harness

There’s no doubt about it:  dogs are becoming valued as family members more than ever before. In our family, Bella rides with us to the trails, on extended road trips, to the brewery, to the Ranch in the summer, and even to the office to work with Pat nearly every day. Needless to say, she spends a lot of time riding in cars.  Usually, Bella has the back seat to herself in our cars and is not restrained in any way. Recently, EzyDog sent us their new Drive Harness to try out, which is a crash tested dog car harness.  The EzyDog Drive Harness made us rethink the way we travel with Bella.  Most people don’t have a lot of experience with crash-rated harnesses for dogs, so we thought we’d share our initial questions and concerns on using a car harness for Bella, paired with our actual research and experiences.

Why a dog car harness?

We did some research to better answer this question.  Many states are beginning to implement laws regarding proper restraints for dogs riding in vehicles.  While this is great news for the safety of our pets, the laws are in reality being put into place to protect the lives of humans.  Dogs that travel in the laps of drivers, ride in front seats or otherwise steal the attention of their owners can be significant distractions while on the road.  Additionally, in the event of a collision, even a small, 10lb dog when unrestrained can cause serious bodily harm or even fatal injuries to people riding in the car.  

Of course, if you are here you also probably think of your dog’s own safety.  Proper restraints can help protect or even save the life of your dog in the event of a crash and may prevent a frightened fido from running away after a fender bender. Other vehicle hazards for your pup include open windows of moving vehicles, front seat airbags, and riding in the bed of a truck. There’s a lot of great information out there, so if you are interested in specific canine accident statistics or regulations in your state, we suggest doing a little research of your own!

What makes a crash-tested harness different from a regular harness?

EzyDog Drive HarnessA crash tested dog harness, as the name implies, has been put through rigorous crash-testing scenarios to ensure that it meets safety standards to protect your dog and human occupants in the event of an accident.  A car safety harness is designed to be strong enough to withstand high impact forces and is specifically designed to fit your dog to limit injury caused by the harness itself.  Everyday harnesses are not designed for either of these purposes, and should not be used with the intention of protecting your dog, or yourself, in the event of a crash. Not only could an everyday-harnesses easily snap under the impact of a crash, straps not meant for serious forces could cause physical harm to your dog.

Will my dog hate it?

While Bella was a little confused over why we were restraining her in the car at first, she got used to the EzyDog Drive Harness after two or three uses. It helped that we got her used to a few short trips with the EzyDog Drive Harness before asking her to be patient with a longer drive. On extended trips, we gave her a few extra stretch breaks than usual.  Most dogs we know tend to associate getting in the car as a gateway to something fun and enjoyable, so we found that the harness after time really just becomes a small yet necessary annoyance to your dog in order to get to something way more exciting.

We also tried out the EzyDog CLICK Adjustable Car Restraint, which clicks into a car’s seatbelt and then clips to the dog’s harness. This method of restraint allows for more movement and may be a viable option if you discover that your dog simply cannot tolerate full restraint.  However, this method may not adequately protect your dog in the event of a crash and is really only designed to minimize driver distraction.  Furthermore, if your dog accidentally has a strap tangled under a leg, a crash in this situation could cause a very serious injury.  The EzyDog Harness, when used without a longer restraint attachment, allowed for Bella to comfortably sit up and lay down, but as the lap belt tightens this seems to restricts her movement incrementally more and more as the ride goes on.

EzyDog Click RestraintBasically, the higher the level of restraint, the less freedom for your dog… but the level of safety for your dog AND the human occupants of the car increases significantly.   These are factors to consider when deciding on the best method of restraint for your dog when riding in the car. We are still on the fence as to which method we ourselves prefer but may alternate between both depending on the type of trip we are on.  We may also explore the slightly different EzyDog Seat Belt Restraint, which seems like a common ground between the two.  

Bottom line….the harness used with only a seat belt as a restraint method is by far the safest way to go.

What is special about the EzyDog Drive Harness?

While we are new to using safety harnesses with Bella, there were a lot of features on the EzyDog Drive Harness that stood out to us as uniquely noteworthy.  First of all, after you initially adjust the harness to properly fit your dog, you can use the Mag-Lok Instant Fit closure system to easily put the harness on and off. We LOVED this design. Additionally, we found EzyDog’s instructional video (below the product description) very helpful in making sure we were adjusting the harness properly. Like most dog gear, it took us a few uses to really fine tune the fitting. In a couple of instances, I wasn’t paying attention and put the harness on with one side twisted inside out, and I didn’t realize it until we were a few miles down the road. This was my error but was something we thought potential users should be aware of.

The harness itself is designed as a wide and substantially padded vest, to cushion your dog and help prevent injury from the straps themselves. We loved the overall sturdy feel of the harness, and the design integrates seat belt straps which cross over the dog’s chest. Sturdy safety buckles remind you if you forget to double back the adjustable webbing by displaying the words WARNING on the portion of the hardware that shouldn’t be visible after the straps are properly secured.

Additional features that we appreciated were the velcro straps that keep extra webbing out of the way after adjusting the fit for Bella, as well as the two rings that come together as a singular attachment point for a leash or other car restraint.  

While the Ezy Dog Drive harness is not cheap and retails at $99, the quality of both the materials and design is obvious.  To us, this is a clear case of “you get what you pay for.”  In our opinion, if you are truly interested in investing in the safety of your dog while riding in the car, then this is a great product for both you and your dog!

Product Reviews

Meet Stunt Puppy Reflective Gear for Dogs

by on December 4, 2016
Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo High Viz Vest

If you’ve seen our Colorado Canine Instagram account, then you’ve no doubt noticed Bella’s blaze orange Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo collar in photos ranging from backcountry snowshoeing treks, horseback rides, and fly fishing excursions. We oftentimes reach for Bella’s Go Dog Glo collar because of it’s rugged yet simple, high-quality construction. The plain fact that Bella’s collar has now come out of two seasons of rides at the Ranch looking good as new and in perfect working order is a minor miracle (I have pairs of leather riding boots and work gloves that don’t survive seasons up there). As a bonus, Stunt Puppy’s products are designed and made right here in the good old US of A, and most of their materials are sourced in the United States as well.

Stunt Puppy Reflective GearWhen we heard that BackcountryK9’s retail shop was closing, as BackcountryK9 ambassadors we started to think…what brands would we want to keep working with? Stunt Puppy was right at the top of our list, for many of the reasons we listed above (also because they are cool yet not pretentious, create sleekly designed products with no unnecessary frills, and have recently come out with several new and innovative running products for dogs). We were thrilled when we discovered that we would be able to keep our relationship with Stunt Puppy through BackcountryK9’s new face on the blogging scene. We’ve since been able to test out some of Stunt Puppy’s latest and greatest products this fall.

Speaking of fall, if you love the outdoors, then there’s a good chance you’ve been rearranging your daily routines recently due to the rapidly decreasing daylight hours. If you’re a runner or dedicated walker, you are probably starting to squeeze in your miles in the dark here and there. For us, once the time change hits, most of our weekday runs are cold, snowy, and in the pitch-dark. While benefits include peaceful workouts devoid of crowds, nighttime safety can be an issue when running in the dark for a variety of reasons including car traffic, bicycle traffic, and wildlife. We run with Bella in a few different nighttime leashed vs. non-leashed scenarios, and thought we would highlight our experiences with the reflective Stunt Puppy gear we’ve tried so far.

Stunt Runner Leash
The amazing Stunt Runner Leash, in our opinion, is best suited for road running vs. trail/mountain running, based on the length it stretches. Running with a dog on-leash while running up and down technical mountain trails is a pretty specialized and slightly hazardous skill, which we’ve found works best with a long combination waist-worn and hand controlled lead. However, an uber long leash is obnoxious and unnecessary for running on roads and wide/non-technical trails. And really, we don’t typically run on trails like that in the dark, anyway (at least not always on purpose). The Stunt Runner is probably overall the most versatile and rugged running leash we have used to date.

What we love:

  • Super reflective
  • Rugged, high-quality materials and buckles.
  • Easy to use, great length for running on roads/wide trails.
  • The human waist-worn portion doesn’t twist and is comfortable to wear.
  • Multi-purpose hands-free running and walking leash.
  • The Stunt Runner leash offers the perfect amount of stretch to absorb shock, yet not so stretchy that you feel as though you don’t have control around other dogs, squirrels, crowds, etc… The traffic handle is a great feature to use when loading and unloading from the car.
  • A few times, I forgot to wear high-visibility colors/reflective materials myself, but the bright orange color we have combined with the reflective features helped me light up on our runs, too, due to the reflective waist-worn feature.

Maybe not for you if:

  • You are looking for a super long, lightweight leash for very technical trail running. The length isn’t ideal for long sections on narrow single-track, and it’s a bit heavy and bulky to fit in a trail running pack.
  • Multiple people of a wide range of sizes in your household really want to use the waist-worn feature. It’s not difficult to adjust, but might not be convenient to do so often. Pat and I can use the same waist length, so it’s not really an issue for us.

Go Dog Glo Harness

Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo HarnessWhat we love:

  • The design of the Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo harness tightens up as your dog pulls. At first, we were worried this would be too harsh for Bella since we’ve never used martingale style collars with her. However, the tightening feature is very subtle yet supportive, almost like a hug. This feature also keeps the harness from slipping over your dog’s head if he or she resists walking forward/pulls backward.
  • With the built-in 3M reflectors, this harness looks like it glows from within, and is impossible to miss when lit up by car headlights or your own headlamp, even from a good distance away.

Maybe not for you if:

  • You want to tie your dog out in a harness unsupervised. Because this harness has a martingale tightening action, it is not recommended for tie out. But that’s all we’ve got.

Keep in mind:

  • Side note, we’ve seen this harness in person in both blue and red. The red is really more of a dusty pink shade, so if you aren’t into pink, we suggest going with the blue color instead.
  • Bella was smack in between a medium and large size harness. Because her shoulders are so broad, a large worked much better for her.

Go Dog Glo High Visibility Vest

Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo High Visibility VestWhat we love:

  • Holy reflection, Batman! You can see the Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo High Visibility Vest from a mile away (well at least up to 500 ft down the road to be exact!).
  • We tested out a newer model with super cool, spiderweb-like reflective design that rivals the look of the slickest new running shoe and running apparel patterns.
  • Ideal for running near traffic, also for when your dog is running/walking off leash and you are using a headlamp. Our first use of this vest was during our stay at a retired fire tower in Wyoming. When we finally had a break in the rain and lounged around the campfire, and also when we let her out at night, it was a breeze to find her in the dark with a quick sweep of a headlamp. This is a great item for camping in addition to running and walking!
  • Again, high-quality construction and thoughtful, rugged design. If I had a human child, I would probably want him/her to wear this for safety at night (disclaimer: don’t really try this with human children. Ok?).

Maybe not for you if…

  • You don’t need a reflective vest for your dog? Other than that, the only detail I can think to mention is that this product currently only comes in fluorescent yellow. If you are looking for a vest for hunting season in your area, you might consider seeking out standard blaze orange colors to warn hunters of your dog’s presence.

The bottom line: The shortened days of Fall and Winter are the perfect time to invest in reflective, high-visibility gear if you stay active with your dog all year long. Investing in reflective gear truly is investing in the safety and well-being of your best adventure companion. Added bonus? Stunt Puppy’s products are designed and made in the USA, are constructed with the same materials used in climbing and rescue gear. Just because the days are getting shorter, doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice outdoor time with your dog!

Adventure Lifestyle

Horseback Riding and Ranch Life with Dogs

by on October 7, 2016
Ranch Life with Dogs

Riding on the Ranch with Bella

My parents never bought me a pony when I was growing up.  In fact, I didn’t really learn how to ride until I was 20 years old.  Even now, I’ve never competed in any kind of equestrian show.  When I was old enough to branch out into the world on my own, I found the Colorado Mountain Ranch in the foothills of Boulder, where I proved that I could work hard, learn fast, and literally get back on the horse when I fell. I also proved that I could pass the knowledge of natural horsemanship on to others. I’ve now been with the Ranch for 10 years, where I instruct weekly riding sessions with young, advanced riders, while simultaneously helping to train new horses for the kids’ program.

Ranch Life with DogsMost of the boys and girls who come to the Ranch have taken riding lessons in enclosed arenas their whole lives, but have never ridden in an open range sans fences, where environmental factors immensely impact your ability to keep the attention of your horse.  Others have limited to no riding experience. On each ride, we spend about two hours exploring hundreds of acres of territory on Colorado’s beautiful Front Range.  My young riders learn confidence, sensitivity, discipline, and awareness of other beings. They learn to become in tune with weather systems, terrain that could potentially endanger their horse, how to walk, trot, canter, and move over obstacles in the field.  I could go on and on about how working with children and horses have changed my life, but that is a whole other blog story.

You are probably here because you are interested in dogs!  Bella began joining me on rides about two years ago.  I didn’t know how she would react to me riding or the horses themselves, but for the most part, it all came to her quite naturally. It was me who needed some training.

What follows is a list of FAQs I frequently get about having Bella on the Ranch with me. We have about 50 horses on the Ranch, and on any given ride I might have as many as 30 people on horseback in my care, most of whom are inexperienced riders.  This leads to challenges when I have Bella with me. Dividing my attention between my own horse and my own safety, the safety of the other horses and riders around me, instruction, and Bella, can be challenging and mentally exhausting at times.  Initially, I even left Bella at home a few times because the stress of all of these factors together became too much. It has taken a couple of years, but we are finally pretty dialed in when it comes to working at the Ranch together.

Q:  Does Bella spook the horses?

Ranch Life with DogsA:  Not really.  The horses at the Ranch are pretty thoroughly used to dogs.  Rarely, Bella does surprise them when she leaps out of tall grass behind a group of riders or causes our flightier horses to startle when she leaps for a treat I toss to her. However, we teach people that learning how to sit and deal with a spook is all part of riding in the open range.  If it’s not Bella that spooks them, it’s bound to be a flapping tarp, a grouse, building materials in the grass, or even a bobcat or deer. We all learn how to adapt together and deal with unexpected stressors, just like in real life outside of the Ranch.

Q:  Are you worried about her getting kicked?

A:  Again, the horses are used to dogs and are very tolerant of Bella, even when she walks around their legs.  I’d be more worried about her getting between two horses that don’t get along and getting hurt by accident.  Out of our 50 horses, there is one I’ve seen slowly raise his back hoof to Bella, so I pay extra attention when he is a horse out on my ride. Anytime you are around horses, being kicked is a real danger, but as you get to know the horses and get to read their body language, your chances of injury are greatly reduced.  It is the same for Bella.  She is very aware of the horses’ body language and definitely knows what an angry horse face looks like:  bared teeth, pinned ears. When she sees those signals from a horse, she quickly gets out of the way.  The first time I cantered on a horse with Bella, she ran after us barking.  It’s taken some time, but she’s gotten a lot better with that issue.  That’s a big safety concern that I needed to address right away, for both Bella and I.  I’m not going to pretend there are no risks at the Ranch, but for the most part, Bella seems equipped to avoid them.  We do have pet insurance for her just in case.

Q:  Are there any other health concerns you have for her there?

A:  In addition to regular heartworm medication, we annually treat Bella for tapeworm, something that was recommended to us for dogs who are regularly around livestock. Bella oftentimes gets little cuts and scrapes on her paws and nose from digging in piles of old metal while searching for rodents, and actually took a few layers of her front paw pads off doing so this summer. That took about two weeks to heal.  Keeping her hydrated in the dry heat is something I pay close attention to since there aren’t a lot of natural water sources around.  Finally, the first time we had a group of farriers up and I had Bella with me, she filled up on hoof trimmings and then threw them up for DAYS.  It was actually a little frightening.  Now I keep her tied up and away from the action when the farriers are around.

Q:  Does she have a particular job at the Ranch?

A:  Not really.  Although, sometimes I camp around the corrals during my four-day-a-week volunteer periods. I do need Bella when I camp by myself to warn me of predators and odd human prowlers (we have encountered both of these) . For the most part, Bella comes to the Ranch as my companion, a rare privilege not usually offered to staff.

Q:  What did you do to train her to ride with you?

Ranch Life with DogsI focused on the simple command, “Bella, come!”  I have to be loud so she can hear me over longer distances and over the wind.  It’s really important that I can gain her attention and that she comes immediately, because when she chases after animals or wanders off, I can’t leave my clients to go get her back.  Horses tended to follow each other, so if I head in one direction, I better be ready for most of my crew to follow me. It’s not really an option to have everyone wait while I go get Bella back. This summer, we made a couple of big changes. We started using a remote collar that beeps, so that even if Bella goes out of sight a hundred yards away, I can still get her attention by pushing a button that causes her collar to beep.  When she hears the beep, she knows that I’ll give her a treat when she comes.  I keep a small ziplock of freeze-dried treats in the small mesh pocket in my front saddle bags, and quickly have access so that I can toss her a treat the second she comes to me. This system not only helped get Bella back when I couldn’t get a visual on her, but vastly decreased her response time. Now, the beep and one command gets a virtually immediate response from her, even with tempting small rodent distractions around.

Q:  How does she do with the kids?

Great!  Bella loves kids and all of the attention they give her.  By the end of the week, nearly all 200 kids who come through for the day program know Bella’s name.

Q:  How does she do with the other dogs?

Bella has known the other Ranch dogs for some time now. The are slightly protective of the Ranch but have never caused any issues with Bella. It’s fun when all four dogs come out on rides together!

Q:  What types of gear does she need at the Ranch?

Bella doesn’t need a lot of gear at the Ranch, usually her Stunt Puppy collar, remote collar, a bowl, and some treats suffice. However, we are out in the elements, so we keep a stash of extra items in the barn.

  • Remote Collar: Gives an auditory beep when farther away, lets her know I need her to come find me even if she can’t see or hear me.
  • Treats:  Small Batch freeze dried meat treats
  • Ruffwear Swamp Cooler: Not rugged enough for constant use on the Ranch, and gets very dirty in this environment, but on blazing hot days is imperative, even if just for between rides.
  • Ruffwear Water Bladder: I carry this in my saddlebags for Bella, since there are almost no natural water sources on our rides.

Ranch Life with DogsNow that we are heading into fall, the campers leave but Pat and I continue riding for several more months.  We ride out nearly every weekend to check on horses that spend their fall a few miles up the road in our 300-acre fall pasture. It’s so special to us that Bella is able to join, and we never take it for granted.  Although there is some risk when we take her into this environment, we know that she loves coming along and wouldn’t want to deny her of these opportunities for fear of injury.  By having a few basic gear essentials for her and always having an eye out for her wellbeing, we know that the happiness she gains from being with us on horseback rides far outweighs the risks.

Adventure Lifestyle Hiking and Backpacking

Backpacking with Kids and Dogs

by on September 30, 2016
Backpacking with Kids and Dogs

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For a couple years now I’ve been itching to get my now 6-year-old son out backpacking with me. It’s something I’ve loved to do for the past 20 years and couldn’t wait to share the experiences with him.

This summer he and I took a road trip around Utah and northern Arizona, visiting national parks and a ton of federal lands. In a weird coincidence, we learned through some Facebook posts that we’d be crossing paths with a good college buddy and his family during their vacation in Moab. We got together and the conversation took a turn to getting his 8-year-old son out backpacking for the first time too.

I’ve never shied away from adventures. I’ve backpacked in remote Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, I’ve camped solo for a week in the Black Hills, I’ve backpacked solo in the High Uintas Wilderness in Utah, but when it came to backpacking with my son, I’ve been hesitant. I’ve worried about logistics and fret over the weather.

Running into my friend and hearing him mimic my desire to get our kids to share this activity we’ve enjoyed for years was the final push I needed.

Fast forward 6 weeks and we were on our way from Milwaukee to The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Porkies, as they are known, are one of just a handful of places in the midwest where you can get out and feel truly remote. The park borders Lake Superior for miles and contains huge swaths of old growth forests. We’d identified a short, 3-mile hike into a small lake where we could make camp for 2 nights with a down day to fish, swim and relax.

After one trip I’m not here to present myself as an expert at backpacking with kids but after a little reflection, it occurred to me how similar bringing my son was to bringing my dog. I wanted to title this post “Things I learned backpacking with my dogs that made backpacking with kids a little easier” but that’s a tad long. But, I digress. What follows are my takeaways from what turned out to be a great trip.

Kids and dogs are pretty adaptable

It’s true and it really makes the trip easier. So, relax. They’ll sleep on the ground with very little complaint and they don’t mind being filthy dirty. Chances are, they both look up to you. So, set a good example in terms of actions and attitude and you’ll most likely have a great time.

Good gear is important

Bad gear leads to misery. Start with a good, properly fitting pack. In our case, it was a REI Tarn 18 pack for the boy and a Ruffwear Palisades for the dog – her go-to pack. In each case, they were able to be more self-sufficient and have a real job to contribute toward the overall trip. Neither was just along for the ride.

Next up, a good sleeping arrangement. Despite the adaptability, everyone needs a warm, comfortable night’s sleep. If not, especially for the kids, crabbiness runs wild. From a previous camping trip in the Black Hills, my son had a good mummy sleeping bag that he knew how to operate and had some experience sleeping in. Under that, I carried a Big Agnes pad for him. For my Lab, the Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag and Highlands Foam Pad cannot be beaten! She used the foam pad separately by the fire and sleep system kept her warm and comfortable all night. Everyone slept as well as you can on the uneven ground.

You’re probably going to forget something

You most likely will forget something. Whether you just didn’t think to bring it, or like my buddy, you left all your headlamps in the car, you’ll probably forget something. Don’t freak out. Unless it’s all your food or your tent, you’ll probably be just fine. Kids and dog’s alike will be looking to you for direction – both in how are we going to fix this situation and emotionally, how are we going to handle it. Keep it together and they will too. Everyone will come out a little stronger, with a positive experience.

Do you notice a lack of photography for this post? Yeah, I forgot the memory card for my DSLR camera and was left with an old, mostly out of focus point and shoot.

Focus on fun

Your mileage will definitely vary with this one but focus on fun. Chances are your kids, and definitely, your dogs, care less about how many miles were hiked that day or if that peak was bagged. They’re going to remember taking that swim and checking out the cool rocks and sticks (and smells for the 4 legged). Make time for fun.

Staying fueled and hydrated

Kids and dogs won’t easily recognize dehydration. They may be completely happy skipping a meal if they aren’t hungry. This is where you have to watch and keep tabs on it, just like you would your own intake. Like at home, maybe more depending on weather and environment, keep them properly hydrated and fueled.

The straight poop

To be honest, this is where kids and dogs were the least alike. The dog will poop and pee anywhere. My son, however, despite going over it at home, couldn’t bring himself to poop in the woods. We dug holes, we tried, it wouldn’t happen. It’s the one area we need to figure out, especially before we try a longer trip.

 

Overall, the trip was a rousing win. Everyone had fun and talked about “next time”; music to my ears.

Product Reviews

Ruffwear Fernie Technical Sweater Review

by on September 21, 2016
Ruffwear Fernie Fleece Dog Jacket

It’s hard not to give into the changing season’s new fashions, and for me, fall is particularly tempting.  Now when I mean fashion, I mean the outdoor kind:  new styles of backpacks, jackets, sweaters, flannels, boots, and running tights. Rainy afternoons and chilly evenings here in Colorado are a welcome reprieve from hot, dry summers. So when Ruffwear came out with their new Fernie sweater-knit jacket, it was time that Bella took on a fall staple for her own “wardrobe.” We knew the Ruffwear Fernie would be a great addition to her winter jackets, as it would be a perfect cozy coat for her to sleep in at night.

Ruffwear Fernie Fleece Dog JacketNow when you think of dog sweaters, you might think of tiny toy pups riding around in their owner’s purses.  However, when you think of the Fernie’s sweater knit fabric, you should think of your favorite knit fly fishing jacket or thick, technical hoody.  

Ruffwear Fernie Fleece Dog JacketNot only does it look cool, but it is very functional as you would expect a Ruffwear jacket to be.  Bella needs a jacket year-round in Colorado for camping and backpacking. Even in the height of summer, nighttime temps dip low enough to cause her to shiver when at rest.  In late summer, evenings consistently begin to hit the freezing mark and even evenings at the breweries in town call for a warm layer or two.

Ruffwear Fernie Fleece Dog JacketFor the maiden voyage of Bella’s Fernie coat, we headed North to Wyoming for a Labor Day vacation in a retired fire tower.  While the tower is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service and typically includes a propane-fueled stove and heater, the propane had been turned off during our stay for repairs.  Our nights in the fire tower were rainy and chilly, and the temperatures nearly hit the 20s.  Between Bella’s Ruffwear Fernie coat and Highlands Sleep System (and the fact that I broke our usual rules and let her sleep on my cot with me), she stayed cozy and warm all three nights.

Why we chose the Ruffwear Fernie coat:

  • We wanted a comfortable coat for Bella for lounging in tents, yurts, fire towers, train cars, geodome houses, and all of the other bizarre and amazing places we adventure to that keep Bella out of the elements, yet still get chilly at night.
  • You know those people that choose to sit on the outside patio at your local brewery, even when it’s 30 degrees?  Yeah, that’s us.  This coat keeps Bella cozy, even on chilly outdoor patios.

What we love:

  • The stretchy material moves with active Bella
  • Full coverage in the sleeves, collar, and back keeps Bella warm during drafty evenings.
  • The feel of the fabric is extremely warm and comfortable and is of very high quality.  In Pat’s words, “she has nicer clothes than I do!”

Maybe not for you if:

  • You are looking for a multi-purpose coat that will keep your dog warm during long periods of activity in deep snow, rain, or high winds.  This jacket is ideal for cool, clear conditions.  Check out Ruffwear’s K-9 Overcoat or Cloud Chaser for a more all-around active coat.

Keep in Mind:

  • Like most fleece materials, we found that fur sticks to this coat.  Luckily, the Fernie comes in several nice colors to choose from and possibly color-coordinate with your pet’s fur.
  • We’ve washed this coat once in a washing machine on a cold setting, and then air dried.  So far it has laundered well.
  • Ruffwear also just updated their Climate Changer fleece coat, and we’ve been asked what the difference is.  Typically, sweater-knit fleece is a tad bit thicker than traditional fleece garments and has a slightly different look to it than traditional fleece. Personally, if I were choosing the coat for more active purposes such as running, I would have opted for the Climate Changer, as it is a thinner material and would breath more efficiently. However, if your dog is particularly thermally fragile, this coat would be a great coat for your dog, even during intense activity.

Ruffwear Fernie Fleece Dog Jacket

Since its original trip to the Wyoming Fire Tower, Bella’s Fernie has made an appearance at several breweries in town.  The Ruffwear Fernie has been a great addition to Bella’s gear closet, and we know she will wear it for many Colorado falls, winters, springs, and summers to come.

More Information and Where to Buy the Ruffwear Fernie

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