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Does your Dog need a Retractable Leash? Why we think not.

Many of you reading this may not agree with the stance we take on this, but some of you may think of your leash differently after reading it. We wrote this blog because it is close to our hearts. A very good friend of ours ended up in the hospital with a broken elbow and hip when she got tangled up in a retractable leash at the park. The woman that entangled her ran away and left her there unable to walk while passerby's came to her side. The other woman has still never been found 2 years later, so no charges could ever be pressed. This left my friend with 2 surgeries, a month in the hospital (including assisted living because she lives in a walk up), thousands in medical bills, a year of physical therapy and paying for someone to care for her own dog while she was on the mend. You never really heal after all of this and retractable leash injuries are much more common than you might think. 

Does a dog really need to have the freedom to explore while a pet parent looks away and lets the lead get longer and longer and longer...Those modern day gizmos that make dog walking a fear factor sport.    

THE FIRST LEASH

German inventor Manfred Bogdahn designed one of the first retractable leashes. He got the idea for freedom on a leash as he calls it back in 1972 while walking his dog. If the lead could extend then a dog could start and stop several times along the way while not forcing the pet owner to do the same. That innovative concept forever changed the dog walking experience for man’s best friend.

LOVE HATE

But did it change for the better? These leashes generate almost as much controversy as today’s Presidential tweets. They have even polarized pet parents into extremist groups of lovers vs. haters. I can attest that retractable rage is very real because I experienced it first-hand recently when I casually mentioned that I was writing this blog.   

Why does a dog leash ignite such heated debates of good and evil? It’s because retractable leashes have proven to be mini weapons of mass destruction.    

THE MECHANICS

The leash itself is nothing more than a thin cord wrapped around a spring-loaded device housed inside a plastic handle. The touch of a button extends the cord out to lengths up to 26 feet. The extra distance feature is what people love about them. They believe that giving their dog more room to explore makes them happier and more fulfilled. On the other hand, it’s this 20 feet of slack that creates an expansive danger zone where everyone in it is at risk. At this distance, pet owners can’t control their dogs or the life threatening situation at hand which leads to very serious and sometimes fatal injuries. That’s why people hate them.  

SAFETY FIRST

It’s important that pet owners understand the basic mechanics, operating techniques, and possible dangers of a retractable leash before using them. Phil Blizzard, CEO and Founder of ThunderWorks which makes ThunderLeash, admits that safety is a concern. He says that’s why their retractable leashes come with a how-to-manual. But honestly, who reads manuals?   

FLEXI, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of retractable leashes, has a disclaimer page on its website that reads in part like this:  

A copy of the Special Precautions & Directions booklet is included in every leash packaging.

Download safety instructions:

for cord leashes
for tape leashes
for VARIO leashes

Read the special precautions below before using a flexi leash. Failure to follow these safety precautions can result in serious injury. Because this leash is retractable, it requires special precautions to reduce the risk of injury. Read this pamphlet before using your leash and save it for future reference.

Do you really want to use a product that is out right telling you it is dangerous? Remember, this is you and your best friend’s life at stake. 

Flexi's site also states "This leash should only be used by responsible people who have read and can follow all of these precautions. Anyone who uses this leash must be able to control the dog and watch the dog closely at all times to keep it from running off or wrapping anyone in the cord/tape/belt. Keep out of reach of small children. Never let anyone play with this leash."

Here are just a couple real life reasons-

  • A guy driving in a neighborhood after dark sees a man walking down the street. He then notices that his dog is walking on the other side alone. Luckily, he brakes just in time so the owner can reel in the retractable leash and bring the dog back by his side avoiding a potentially devastating outcome.   

  • An owner walks his dog alongside a busy main road. He has slung the retractable leash over his shoulder with the cord extended to about 12’ behind him. He never once looks back to see if his dog is in danger let alone if he is still there. This was an accident just waiting to happen.

DOG INJURIES

Neck-related injuries are the most common to dogs for the obvious reason:  collars/leashes. The retractable leash is the most life threatening. According to holistic veterinarian Dr. Peter Dobias the pulling action by the dog along with the repetitive stop-and-go braking by the owner applies a force on the collar which in turn presses on vital organs (thyroid gland, jugular vein, carotid artery, cervical spine, and cervical nerves). The resulting problems are often misdiagnosed and therefore not treated properly.

Here are some symptoms to watch for and report to your veterinarian if you use a retractable leash:

  • Paw licking – In response to numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation in their neck, dogs lick and chew their paws. These injuries are often misdiagnosed with allergies.

  • Armpit Scratching – this same tingling pain sensation can cause tightness of the armpit muscles.

  • Hypothyroidism – the thyroid gland is very superficial in the neck and therefore prone to physical damage. An injury can result in inflammation whereby the body creates antibodies against the gland which leads to hypothyroidism.  

  • Ear Scratching/Infections – Injuries to the upper cervical spine C1-C3 are prone to ear problems. The neck is crucial for providing the energy flow to the ears and collar injuries play a big role.

  • Epilepsy/Seizures – Pressure on the jugular vein increases intracranial pressure which increases the likelihood of epilepsy in a predisposed dog.  

But far worse, retractable leashes have been known to kill. Take the case where a dog bolted into traffic and was hit by a motorcycle before the owner could retract the cord.  Critical Care Specialist Dr. Garret Pachtinger said the dog suffered a torn trachea - not from the blunt trauma caused by the direct impact of the motorcycle - but from the pulling injury caused by the collar/leash on the cervical neck and trachea. Thankfully, the dog recovered.

BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS

Dogs can suffer emotional trauma as well. When a runaway pulls the handle out of its owner’s hand, the sound of it dropping scares the dog. That sound creates a forever lingering fear in the animal not only of the leash, but of being walked. That behavioral symptom might even be hard for a dog whisperer to diagnose.   

But the cons don’t stop there. Retractable leashes literally teach a dog to pull which is contrary to all principles of dog training. They quickly learn that the more they pull the greater distance they can travel.  

DANGER IS EVERYWHERE

Danger is not limited to the streets.  Prompted by a serious biting incident and potential lawsuit, Dr. Paul Potenza of New Canaan, Connecticut built a half wall in his waiting area to separate standard and retractable leashed dogs which are problematic in small enclosed spaces.   

Mounds Pet Food Warehouse took an even more extreme approach to ensure the safety of their shoppers.  They banned retractable leashes from their five Wisconsin stores. Customers are now asked to borrow a standard 6-foot leash to use while shopping.  

LEASH ETIQUETTE

If you do use a retractable leash, please consider these guidelines as a code of conduct so everyone stays safe.   

  • Respect other owners/dogs around you by retracting the leash so your dog is close to you.

  • Be mindful some dogs might not be friendly.  Calming an aggressive dog is almost impossible.

  • Buy good quality leashes made with a belt or tape, not a cord.

  • Choose the right size for your dog.  Leashes are rated by weight and cheaper knock-offs are not.  

  • Constantly be aware of your surroundings looking for potential dangers.

  • Lock the leash for distances that are safe based on your environment.

Sounds simple enough, right? But human nature is a funny thing. Rules are only for other people. Be honest, how many times have you said “don’t worry, my dog is friendly” or “my dog would never do that”?  

WHAT’S A DOG?  

Let’s be real. A DOG! is a DOG! is a DOG! They are descendants of wolves and no matter how much domestication - they are still wild animals. Television host/trainer Casey Anderson of America the Wild says that despite his years of handling wild animals and even forging lifelong bonds with some never let your guard down.  

We want to believe that our best friend would never hurt anyone but we don’t really know what sensory cues trigger them to attack. It could be a noise we can’t hear or a flashback from their past. My Maru has always been highly aggressive and anti-social and that’s why I am always on high alert. As a pet parent I believe it’s my responsibility to ensure not only her well- being but that of others as well.

With retractable leashes there are just too many variables to control. And that’s why I am not an advocate. If there is an incident who should be at fault? Is it the dog, the leash, or end user? Or, maybe pet humanization is the real blame.  

MAN AND HIS DOG

Modern day pet parents treat their dogs like surrogate babies - not like man’s best friend. They send them to spas, daycare, and even snap chat with them. Is it any wonder then why retractable leashes are so popular?  Pet owners have convinced themselves that it will give their dog a more satisfying walking experience to have that extra freedom of movement. Can you say projection? It’s that kind of illogical logic that makes theses leashes top seller
 

FUN STUFF

If you’re still not a believer, spend 15 minutes online searching for information on retractable leashes. The only positives you will find are on manufacturer’s websites. That tells the story.

Whether you are pro or con on this issue, hopefully you now have a better awareness. It’s your dog, it’s your decision. Safety above all else should be the priority.

If you’re still having trouble deciding whether you’re for or against retractable leashes, grab an old leash and go for a long walk with your best friend the old fashioned way.

 

 

 

 

AIBO - The Wonder Dog, AI, and a Fur Coat

I recently discovered a rare breed of dog called AIBO. It’s the perfect pedigree since it doesn’t shed, chew furniture, or bite. You don’t even have to take it for a walk. Sadly though, it will soon be extinct. 

You see AIBO is a robotic dog that Sony built back in 1999. They came in a variety of colors, were programmed to speak over 1,000 words, and some understood more than a 100 including Spanish. They could even wag their tails when pat on the head. Back then this was cutting edge technology. 

AIBO and friend

AIBO and friend

My first thoughts were this is crazy.   Why would grown people pay some $2000 for fake dogs? Then I watched a video of an elderly Japanese couple who had one.   They talked to it, played with it, walked it, and even put it to bed. Suddenly it all made sense. People weren’t just buying a dog. They were buying love. 

THE BOTTON LINE
While people loved them, Sony’s profit and loss didn’t measure up. Instead of selling tens of millions they only sold about 150,000. So, in 2007 Sony stopped production and then in 2015 shut down their repair division. This was so devastating to “pet” owners they formed support groups to help each other deal with the prospect that their aging pets would break down for good. 

CEREMONIAL TRIBUTE
If you think that’s over the top, how about a full-blown ceremonial funeral? The lifeless AIBO’s are lined up on the altar while Buddhist priests chant prayers and owners pray for their souls. The formal ritual helps grieving owners deal with their loss as their beloved companions now become parts donors to other dogs.

REPAIR IT
For those who just can’t let go, there is cyber-vet Nobuyuki Norimatsu, a former Sony engineer. With a waitlist of some 200 dogs it can take several months at a minimum cost of $200, but owners don’t care. They just want their best friends healthy again. 
This cute little canine’s popularity grew world-wide. An AIBO was once featured on the sitcom Frasier and one US owner’s collection is worth $125,000 today. It’s a toy that changed the world. 

BRAVE NEW WORLD
What’s in our future? Domestic pets could be replaced by robotic impostors by 2025 according to Australian researcher Dr. Jean-Loup Rault. “Robotic pets will take off in the next 10 to 15 years and tech companies are already jockeying for position in the market,” he said. 
First up is WowWee which debuts its Canine Home Intelligent Pet or “CHiP” this fall. Priced at $199, it brags to be the next best thing to a real dog. It can fetch, auto charge itself, wake you in the morning, and greet you at the door when you come home. These elemental basics are what satisfy a human’s need to have a real dog.   So if an animatronics could provide that same satisfaction then humans, who are innately anthropomorphic, could conceivably embrace them. This might explain why people became so attached to a plug-in pet like AIBO. 
Fast forward a few years and we’ve gone from toy bots to super bots so sophisticated and intelligent they could rule the universe. Today’s BOTS are hard core taskmasters designed to simplify and improve man’s life much like machines and automation did during the Industrial Revolution.   

Dog Bots making headlines are SPOT whose specialty is military maneuvers, bomb sniffing, and disaster rescue; mule-sized rugged terrain champ Big Dog who can run 4 mph and carry loads up to 350 lbs; and N003 a robotic guide dog for the blind. If you’re looking for help with chores or to bring you a beer, General Dynamic’s MiniSpot is at your service. 

LOVE CONNECTION
If a human can fall in love with a fake dog, could they fall in love with a desk lamp? Don’t laugh. If you’re world-renowned robotics visionary Guy Hoffman the answer is yes. He believes humans can bond emotionally with a robot. His robots are far from humanoid in appearance, yet they become human-like through their movements. Hoffman says it’s their motion that makes humans feel emotion for them and want to treat them more like companions.   
In “Robots with Soul” you can see two of Hoffman’s robotic creations. There’s marimba player Shimon free-styling with a rapper and Travis, a 2-headed speaker jamming to music. What’s significant here is how all of a sudden the rapper engages in eye contact with the robot like he’s another musician.   And Travis goes from an odd looking robot to a cute little guy you want to hang with. 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
An android world is driven by artificial intelligence. If robots get smarter than humans, will we become nothing more than a house pet? Those were recent comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. His solution is a neural mesh that fits on the brain to give it digital computing capabilities. He believes the two working together would let humans stay on pace with artificial intelligence. It’s all alien creepy, but maybe not so far-fetched. 
Ray Kurzweil - one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, futurists and now Google’s Director of Engineering - says that in 15 years computers are going to trump people. And that by 2045 they will be a billion times more powerful than all of the human brains on Earth.   He cites the AI revolution as the most profound transformation of human civilization we will ever experience. It will allow us to reprogram our own biology and manipulate matter at atomic and molecular levels. That kind of sci-fi supremacy means we’re in for a wild ride.

HUMAN ROBOTS
At this point though, no one knows for sure where this technology will lead us. But the Japanese have taken a huge step in pushing forward. They recently introduced Pepper, a talking humanoid robot that reads emotions and tells jokes when you are sad. It sold out of its initial 1,000 units in one minute back in June at a cost of around $1600 each. Robot staff is slowly going main stream being rolled out in stores, airports, and hotels throughout Japan.
President Hideo Sawada of the new Henn-na Hotel says, “In the future, we’d like to have more than 90 percent of hotel services operated by robots.   They will be capable of having conversations with humans.” But the technology doesn’t stop there. Guest room doors will open by facial recognition and instead of air conditioners a radiation panel will detect body heat and adjust a room’s temperature accordingly. You get all that for $60 to $119 dollars. Beat that Priceline!

FUTURISTIC
Kurzweil believes the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th as technology continues to advance exponentially. Google will know the answer to your question before you ask it and it will have read every email or document you’ve ever written and every idle thought you’ve ever typed into a search-engine. It will know you better then you know yourself. That’s too scary a thought to even think about.

Like it or not, robots are the new reality and might be your next best friend. As artificial intelligence reinvents the universe, where do man and his dog fit in? By mid-century an increasingly urbanized world population of nearly 10 billion could mean that real animals will be a luxury only for the super-rich. 

Until then, I’m going to enjoy my humanness and treasure my Ms. Maru. I want to feel her fur coat, look into her soulful eyes, and hear that familiar annoying bark. While a robot dog can do many things, it can’t give you sloppy kisses that fill your heart with love. That’s the real deal. 
 

Chinese Imported Dog Treats Cause Of Canine Deaths

Jerky treats from China have made news headlines again because more pups have lost their lives. We decided it was time to learn why this keeps happening. What we found is certainly eye-opening and scary. 

For those of you who might be asking if we use Chinese jerky in our treats, the answer is a resounding NO! One of our signature treats has beef jerky but it’s handcrafted and locally sourced from a small company in rural Michigan.  

Speaking of beef, let’s begin. Remember when the little old lady in the Wendy's commercial asked “where’s the beef” she just wanted a bigger burger. Today, that same question leads us all the way to China.  

Beef is one of the commodities in a high-stakes trade deal between the U.S. and China and may indirectly be responsible for thousands of dogs dying in this country and Australia. Chinese poultry, the other commodity, is likely the killing agent. 

As of May 1, 2014, the FDA has received almost 5,000 complaints of illness in pets that ate chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all of which are imported from China.

The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people and include 1,000 canine deaths.

This is a complicated and twisted tale that raises many other questions like why the U.S. continues to import these products or why can’t top-notch FDA specialists figure out the cause. There’s more to this story and if chickens could talk, maybe we’d have those answers.

Background

In the past ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in the import of pet food from China. That’s because people in China prefer dark meat poultry which leaves a massive amount of light meat available for export.

From 2003 to 2011, the volume of pet food exports to the U.S. from China has grown 85-fold. Nearly 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011 alone. What’s more, pet treats, including jerky, are now the fastest growing segment of the pet food market.

Drugs

In January 2013, chicken jerky recalls were sparked by the New York State Department of Agriculture when they found some products adulterated with antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. as well as amantadine, an antiviral and anti-parkinsonian medication.

Manufacturing Plant Corruption

After inspecting five high volume jerky producing plants in China, the FDA identified one that falsified documents regarding their use of glycerin. Why is this significant? It’s because glycerin is a toxic by-product in making biodiesel fuel and it has been found in nearly every Chinese jerky treat’s list of ingredients.

Glycerin

Got your chemistry book handy? Glycerin is a sugar and filler. It’s classified as a humectant which means it absorbs water or moisture. It’s used in pet treats so the manufacturer can sell you the weight in water. Glycerin binds the water so as to disguise the water as a solid treat or food, and inhibit mold growth. To make a food soft, moist or semi-moist, glycerin makes up about 10-18% of the product. It’s about 60% as sweet as sugar so the treat maker benefits since dogs can taste sweetness.

Glycerin Market

Now it’s time to grab that economics book. Right now there is an extraordinary amount of biofuel glycerin coming into the market since one gallon of biodiesel yields one pound of glycerin. At this rate, the glycerin market is forced to find new uses for this product. Animal food is where it’s being dumped. 

Below are some of the brand names that contain glycerin: 

  • Beggin’ Strips
  • Beneful (Baked Delights and Snackin’ Slices)
  • Bil-Jac  (liver treats for dogs and Gooberlicious)
  • Blue Buffalo (Blue Bits, Blue Bites, Blue Stix, Super Bars, Blue Bones, Wild Bites, Blue Wilderness Wild Bites)
  • Blue Dog Bakery (Softies, Perfect Trainers)
  • Buddy Biscuits (Soft and Chewy, Chewy Tricky Trainers)
  • Busy Bones
  • Canyon Creek Ranch
  • Carolina Prime
  • Cesar Treats
  • Dentastix (from Pedigree)
  • Good Bites (from Pedigree)
  • Halo (Spot’s Chew)
  • Milo’s Kitchen
  • Pur Luv (Chewy Bites, Little Trix, Grande Bones)
  • Purina Pro Plan (various treats including Roasted Slices)
  • Real Meat Jerky Treats (Jerky Bites, Bitz, Long Stix, Large Bitz)
  • Solid Gold (Beef Jerky, Turkey Jerky, Lamb Jerky, Tiny Tots)
  • Snausages
  • T-Bonz
  • Waggin Train
  • Wellness (Wellpet, Wellbites)
  • Zukes  (Hip Action, Natural Purrz, Jerky Naturals, Mini Naturals)

Natural vs. Natural Glycerin

Until recently, most glycerin for pet food was produced as a byproduct of soap making and considered safe for pet consumption. Pet food makers that use soap glycerin try to distinguish their products by calling it “natural." Buyer beware because bio-diesel glycerin is also categorized as “natural” but it’s not been approved by the FDA yet.

Irradiation

Here’s another interesting fact. According to FoodandWaterWatch.org (a consumer advocacy organization) there are no reports of pet illness or death linked to the same jerky treats in Europe. What’s different? Both the U.S. and Australia use irradiation – the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation to destroy microbes. The problem is it doesn’t successfully destroy all of them and can alter the food. From the OrganicConsumers.org website:  “Studies show that animals fed with irradiated food have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage.

Symptoms

Symptoms reported by pet owners include gastrointestinal, liver, kidney and urinary disease.

About 10% of the illnesses included neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms and about 15 percent tested positive for Fanconi syndrome – a rare and fatal kidney disease.

Consumer Awareness

Incredibly, even with all the media coverage over the years, there are still pet parents that are totally unaware of the jerky treat situation. Otherwise, how could they knowingly continue to buy the foreign jerky?  Maybe it’s because manufacturers don’t have to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products which means they still may be sourced from China.

Or, they just don’t get it. Nina Leigh Krueger, head of Purina’s recalled Waggin ‘Train brand, said they had thousands of customers calling for it to be back on store shelves. 

So Purina re-launched the treat, now including two varieties made in the U.S.  “We still produce our Chicken Jerky Tenders in China but we now get our chicken there from a single U.S.-owned supplier which oversees the process from egg through to treat,” said Bill Cooper, Nestle Purina’s vice president of manufacturing. He declined to name the supplier but said the company now routinely tests for 40 types of antibiotics.

Recalls

Due to consumer pressure, PetSmart and Petco will ban all treats from China by year end 2015. 

Processing in China

Food Safety News just revealed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will soon allow U.S. chickens to be sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the states for human consumption. Considering that there are no plans to station on-site USDA inspectors at these subpar Chinese plants, it’s disturbing to say the least. Also, consumers won’t know which brands of chicken are processed in China because there’s no requirement to label it as such.

Report Complaints

You can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area  or go to:  http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints. 

You can also get dog food recall alerts delivered to your Inbox by subscribing to The Dog Food Advisor’s Dog Food Recall Alert email notification list or follow them on Twitter.

Wrap Up

I hope this article has raised awareness of what’s going on in the pet industry.  Personally, I was blown away by what I discovered.  I recommend reading the Hearing on the Threat of China’s Unsafe Consumables by Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food and Water Watch dated May 8, 2013 for a good overview.   http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/china_house_testimony_may_2013.pdf

We want you to know that Arrfscarf will continue to source locally and maintain close relationships with our vendors. Our goal has always been and always will be to give your pups the very best.  

Until now, who would have imagined that jerky could be the tipping point for economic trade disaster and personal tragedy. It’s certainly a story of international intrigue. But as we found out, the real story is not about jerky, chickens, or even dogs.  It’s all about money and there’s only one way to fight back. Voting with your purchasing dollars. Buy local and U.S. made products.