Monday, July 27, 2009

A Brief History of Hooked On Dogs

Many of you know, but some may not, how Nadja and I became Hooked On Dogs. Both of us were born with a fondness for dogs, having grown up with them. We both adopted our own first "non-family" dogs when we were still in college. I adopted Dixie Dog (1991 - 2006) when I was just beginning my third year in college. She spent two years with me in college, three years in law school, and the rest of her life helping to keep me sane during my legal career. Nadja adopted Indalo (fondly referred to as Indi), now almost 14 when she was in graduate school at the University of Florida.

Over the years, of course, we both added a lot more dogs to our homes, all rescues. When we combined our packs (think of us as the Brady Bunch with dogs), we had 4 dogs each, and we've added Lolita and Thelma since that time. When we say we are "Hooked On Dogs," that is truly what we are. Our dogs range in size from 14 pounds (Wee-la) to 44 (Pippi). We have six cattle dog mixes, three total mutts, and a pit bull. All have at least dabbled in agility, with Clementine, a Master Agility dog, being the most accomplished in that field. Most like to swim daily in the summer, and several like dock diving (Clem, again, the superstar, as the smallest dog ever to qualify in the sport of Big Air on ESPN's Great Outdoor Games). Four have qualified for the world finals of canine disc (Bandit, Clem, Wee-la, Squirt), and three hope to do the same when they grow up (Smokey, Lolita, and Thelma -- the great hopes for the future).

When Nadja, formerly a professor of architecture, and I, formerly a corporate lawyer, decided to say Chuck-It! to those careers, we only had one goal . . . how to turn our passion (dogs) into something we could do full-time. We spent some time on the road figuring it all out. For several months, we traveled with our dogs competing and performing . . . and visiting every dog store in every town we visited. We saw what we liked and didn't like, and we didn't see some things we thought should exist in the world of dog stores that didn't.

When we finally settled in the Hudson Valley, our goal was simple . . . to use our combined knowledge and experience to bring the best toys, treats and food to dog lovers in a clean, friendly, and educational environment. In June 2008, Hooked On Dogs was born in Red Hook, NY where we hope it stays for a long time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Best Find of the Week: Ice Buckets!!! Courtesy of Animal Farm Foundation

Nadja and I both had the privilege of participating in the Internship Program at Animal Farm Foundation this week: I lectured on Nutrition Monday, and Nadja demonstrated how to get shelter dogs interested in canine disc on Thursday. The staff of AFF put together a wonderful program and had a great group of caring and inquisitive interns.

Most of you who know us at Hooked On Dogs know that we are always looking for cool new products for the store -- fun toys for dogs to play with, the best treats to train with, and healthy foods to nourish with. Every once in a while we come across a really cool way of using something that already existed that we think is worth sharing. Following my lecture on Nutrition Monday, I learned about ice buckets from AFF staff member Ashley, and I was blown away.

Ice buckets have changed the way we feed our own dogs. Ice buckets partially inspired me to start this blog. In short, I believe ice buckets are the greatest thing since the Kong . . .

Animal Farm started using ice buckets as a way to give the shelter dogs a form of mental stimulation that was enjoyable and long lasting. A way to make the dogs forget they were in a shelter for an hour or so. We have long used Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or high-quality canned dog food and then frozen to "keep our dogs busy" for 20-30minutes. When people come into our store looking for ways to lessen separation anxiety, give their dogs something to do to "take the edge off," etc. we always suggest a Kong used in this way, or a good treat or kibble dispensing toy. Ice buckets take this type of activity to a whole new level.

So what is an ice bucket??? Simply . . . a freezer-proof bucket (or food bowl if you don't have a bucket handy) loaded up with frozen, stuffed Kongs, any other kind of enticing chew toy you can find, bones to chew on, part of your dog's meal, treats, ect. frozen into one big glob and served to your dog for at least an hour of enjoyment. The water you use to fill the bucket should be laced with something to make it even more yummy . . . low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, yogurt diluted in water, or for an extra special and tasty treat try Ice Pups by The Honest Kitchen. You can even freeze in multiple layers to give your dog an assortment of yummy options.

At Animal Farm, they have stopped feeding their dogs by just putting kibble in a bowl. They now use every mealtime as an opportunity for mental stimulation. They might stuff a Kong with 1/2 cup of food and seal it off with peanut butter and then freeze it, another quarter cup or so will go into a hollowed out marrow bone, sealed off with canned dog food and then frozen. All of these frozen stuffed treats will go into an ice bucket. What used to take just 30 seconds or so, now gives each dog at least an hour of something to work on. With this type of mental stimulation, the dogs are happier and healthier.

What if we all did this with our own dogs, too? We started doing it with our dogs for one meal a day, and they LOVE IT! They start their day a little more contented, with a calmer approach to the day. One thing is for sure . . . ice buckets are here to stay at our house. We hope you all will give it a try with your dogs, too!

Thank you Animal Farm Foundation for this wonderful way of enriching our dogs' lives!


P.S. If your dog isn't too keen on licking or chewing his way through all that ice, you can make a "busy bucket" instead. The same frozen stuffed food treats can just go in a bucket or bowl, just without the ice. It may not take as long as an ice bucket, but it will take a lot longer than regular meatime.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Welcome to the Hooked On Dogs Blog!

I've had a few thoughts lately that I wanted to put in writing somewhere, but wasn't sure where . . . I didn't want to clutter our Hooked On Dogs website and there isn't really enough room to wax eloquent on our Facebook page. I have been inspired by a few friends' blogs lately, and I thought this forum might work well. So . . . I have created this blog to talk about good dog stuff, from fun activities to healthy food options to whatever else we might want to discuss. Look for blog posts from Nadja or I from time to time. Thanks for reading.

Hooked On Dogs