September 29, 2014

Making Healthy Changes with Natural Dog Food #PawNatural

dog food rotation diet

This post is sponsored by Only Natural Pet and the BlogPaws Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the new Canine PowerFoodTM, but Rubicon Days only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Only Natural Pet is not responsible for the content of this article.

Recently I asked Rubicon Days' Facebook followers what was important to them in selecting a dog food. Some of the responses were "no allergens" "made in USA," "grain-free," and "natural ingredients."

I'm not proud of some of the food that I bought for my previous dogs, but I think there has been a revolution in the pet food industry in the last several years, inspiring us to be more educated and make healthier choices for our companions. By reading labels, researching ingredients, and buying the highest-quality foods our budgets allow, we can help our dogs reach their nourished, healthful potential. Lasya and Freya lived long lives and did not always eat top-shelf dog food, but I am determined to do better with the Ginger Sisters' diet.  I was therefore thrilled to partner with local Boulder, Colorado-based company Only Natural Pet for the launch of their new natural Canine PowerFoodTM  which was developed by a holistic veterinarian and is allergy-friendly, grain-free, and made in the USA.

We selected the limited-ingredient Just Fish Recipe of Only Natural Pet Canine PowerfoodTM  and I was very pleased with what I saw on the label. The food is made in the USA, and de-boned whitefish is the first listed ingredient, followed by vegetables, fruits and other nutrients. Two of the more interesting ingredients are green lipped mussels and sea cucumber, which are included in the PowerBoostTM Blend, a freeze-dried coating. Both of these oceanic ingredients are indicated for joint health. The coating also includes pumpkin, digestive enzymes and probiotics, all things I feel are beneficial to my dogs. 

On the first day, I fed 1/4 new food and 3/4 old food in our Slo Bowls

Ruby and Boca are already on a high quality rotation diet which I've talked about quite a bit here. They eat freeze-dried or dehydrated raw for breakfast and kibble for dinner. I am always open to adding new brands to our pantry as I believe variety is good for them. We generally switch dog food brands and/or varieties by the bag or box. The Ginger Sisters have never had any trouble changing foods on their rotation diet, but for the purposes of this food trial we followed the gradual transitioning guidelines provided by Only Natural Pet. Some dogs are sensitive to change, especially if they have been eating the same food for their whole lives. When introducing a new dog food, begin by incrementally increasing the ratio of new food to old food over the course of at least ten days.

Both dogs (even picky Ruby!) ate the Just Fish Feast enthusiastically and are now fully transitioned to it, with the addition of camelina oil, which I rotate seasonally with salmon oil and coconut oil. Although neither of my girls have allergies, I prefer to avoid grains and particularly corn, and Only Natural Pet Canine PowerfoodTM is free of corn, wheat, oats and soy. My dogs are at ideal weights with shiny coats, white teeth and no digestive issues and they have maintained this condition through the transition. I feel I can put my trust in a company that maintains a list of unacceptable ingredients for the products it manufactures and carries and I feel confident about adding this new natural dog food to our regular rotation. In addition to the fish variety, Only Natural Pet will also release a poultry and a red meat blend on October 6th, and the kibble is available for pre-order here.  You can also visit Only Natural Pet on Facebook and Twitter

September 26, 2014

Five Ways to Connect with Rubicon Days

The Ginger Sisters love staying connected!

As I approach the one-year anniversary of this blog next month, I am so grateful for the connections I have made along the way with fellow bloggers, owners of reactive dogs, animal advocates and brands I believe in. I had no idea where Rubicon Days would take me, but it has already changed my life immeasurably and I look forward to the friendships and opportunities ahead. I thought I would take a moment to point you toward our other outposts on the web:


I love having a central reader for all of my favorite blogs, even though I am perpetually behind. I keep coming more awesome blogs! If you'd like to follow Rubicon Days on Bloglovin', here we are


Rubicon Days on Facebook is a friendly catch-all place where I share cute pictures, helpful articles, and fun dog-related things.  It's a great place to chat and bounce ideas off one another, too.


It took me a long time to warm up to Twitter, but I'm so glad I did. I keep it very "on topic" there, it's the perfect place for exchanging links and I'll often tweet short updates about training with Ruby and Boca. Follow us here


As a visual person who loves organization, Pinterest is right up my alley. While I've combined my personal and blog-related pins, it's become largely canine-centric and all of my dog boards are at the top. Here are a few of my favorites:


Reactive Resources

Ruby Approved Dog Products


I could spend hours on Instagram looking at other peoples' dogs. I try to post Ruby and Boca pictures daily, and every once in a while you'll spot my horse or a yummy vegetarian meal.

 I hope to see you around!

September 24, 2014

WW 9.24.14: One Scoop of Cute in a Sugar Cone, Please

Ruby has been extra sweet and cuddly while wearing her Comfy Cone.

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September 23, 2014

It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Ends Up In a Cone

Waiting to see the vet

What began as a simple afternoon walk resulted in a three hour visit to the emergency vet with Ruby on Saturday. As with many of our mishaps, I blame the rabbits! You see, Ruby darted headfirst into a juniper bush after one and came out yipping and squinting. I could see a tiny speck of blood in the corner of her left eye and knew immediately that I should take her to the emergency clinic. Eye injuries are not something to wait or take chances with.

I've spent far more time at the local emergency clinic than I'd like. My Norwegian elkhound, Freya, spent three days in neurology ICU there last summer, and Ruby had x-rays last winter for a suspected obstruction after eating a piece of a plush toy. It was busier than I had ever seen it on Saturday, and our long wait was quite a challenge as I tried to keep Ruby from seeing other dogs. Even once we were in a room we waited for at least another hour. A tech told me that three critical cases came in at the same time. I knew that we were not a major emergency and was not annoyed by the delay (although I was wishing I'd brought a book!). I was just thankful we weren't there under worse circumstances.

Finally the vet took Ruby back to stain her eye, and showed me where the dye had picked up near the middle of her lens. He prescribed some antibiotic eye drops and we had another long wait back in the entrance area for the prescription and discharge instructions. Ruby had done really well, all things considered, so I was disappointed when one of the employees wheeled a vacuum cleaner straight toward us and sent Ruby into a reactive frenzy. It was especially disruptive because there were several people being obviously faced with difficult news and tearful decisions, so I took Ruby around a partition to try and calm her down.  

In order to keep Ruby from rubbing or scratching her eye, I put Pawz rubber dog boots on her feet that first night. These are a great thing to have around - I used one for Boca when she had her paw pad injury. The next morning I picked up a Comfy Cone from Kriser's - much better than the plastic ones the vet carries, and another smart item to keep on hand. Ruby spent Sunday being quite depressed and followed me around like a little velcro dog, but has since adjusted well to her new accessory. The prescribed eye drops were another story...

Even with my dad's help, it was nearly impossible to get the drops in Ruby's eye. She developed an instant fear of the bottle, and struggled mightily. I thought I was making progress with using the peanut butter bottle and a lot of patience, but after getting one lucky drop in, she became suspicious of that method, too. I knew there was no way I was going to get them in her eye three times a day for ten days, and called my regular vet for an alternative. They prescribed an ointment, which is going much better, although I notice that the redness increases after the ointment is applied so I'll be placing another call this morning to see if that is a concern. Ruby isn't squinting and doesn't seem overly bothered. She will have to have her eye re-stained on Saturday and I hope that it will heal up just fine. I plan to take up the vet bills with the rabbit colony...

September 17, 2014

WW 9.17.14: Lean On Me

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September 16, 2014

When Crate Training Comes In Handy

 Even if they aren't used regularly, crates are a good tool if your dog is unpredictable, anxious or fearful around strangers and you suddenly need to let those strangers into your house. 
Both of my dogs spent a fair amount of time crated when I first adopted them (or in Boca's case, when I took her on as a foster dog). I don't believe dogs should be crated more than five hours at a time on a regular basis, but when introducing a puppy or new dog into a household, it is a temporary way to slowly introduce them to more freedom. Ruby quickly proved that she could be trusted home alone (I keep her in the gated kitchen/dining room so my senior cat can have the run of the rest of the house), and we pretty much abandoned the crate after the first few months. Ruby doesn't love her crate and never goes in it on her own if the door is left open.

Boca, on the other hand, seems to like her crate enough to sleep in it voluntarily sometimes, take comfort there during thunderstorms, and it's where I prefer her to go when I feed high-value, long-lasting chew treats like bully sticks, so that there are no quarrels between sisters. While she can also be trusted free in the house, I have continued to crate Boca in the mornings during the week, and she spends afternoons in the kitchen with Ruby. This arrangement works well and I think it gives them some quiet time apart from each other.

Recently I was reminded of a good reason to keep up with their crate training when I had to have some HVAC service people in the house. Despite her reactivity, Ruby has thus far been good about strangers coming to the house, but they have always been people I know and maybe that made a difference for her. She did not like the first repairman and I quickly realized she would need to be crated while he was there. Boca is fearful of strange men, particularly if they are wearing hats, sunglasses, or carrying things. I got them both safely secured, and although Ruby did a lot of whining, she did eventually settle down and chew a bully stick. We had to repeat the whole routine the following day to get another estimate.

The bad news is: I need a new furnace. Two installers will be at my house all day on Friday. I don't plan on crating the ginger sisters the entire time; in fact, it will be a perfect opportunity for me to work upstairs in my spare room and they can hang out there with me. Still, the whole experience prompted me to brush up on Ruby's crate skills, since I had to catch her and physically put her in the crate last week. She had obviously forgotten what 'go to your den' meant, and I saw it as a training opportunity.

Last night with the aid of the clicker and handfuls of smelly Only Natural Pet treats, I worked with both girls on their crate cue as well as waiting for release and staying with the crate door open. By the end of our session, Ruby and Boca were running excitedly to their dens. Ruby was laying down inside and waiting for the 'okay' before coming out. Hopefully this will make things easier the next time we need to unexpectedly utilize their crates.

September 10, 2014

WW 9.10.14: Endearing

The impossible-to-resist head tilt...

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September 9, 2014

Looking Ahead: Training Update and Goals

I've admittedly gotten quite lax with Ruby's training, and have been hesitant to post any sort of progress report because the truth is...we really haven't made a lot of progress, and I am seeing regression in some areas. The blame is entirely on me - I see results when I am consistent and dedicated, and I just haven't been. The summer seemed a bit hectic with an unexpected car purchase and hunting for a new barn for my horse, not to mention that there is more activity in my neighborhood with everyone enjoying the outdoors. Even my usual management methods have a higher rate of failure when there is a dog, a bike or a stroller around every corner. 

I feel like Ruby has gotten worse about dogs, although in the last few days we've had a couple of successes where she has for certain seen the dog, but I was able to make an exit without a spinning/lunging/barking meltdown. One of these instances was on our way to the vacant field and Ruby's "digging hill." There was someone with a medium-sized dog walking perpendicular to us about half a block away, and Ruby was so excited to go on a dirt-flinging binge that she couldn't have cared less. 

Trigger stacking is a very real issue for us, and I notice it particularly with cars. If we're having a quiet walk, cars can pass unnoticed. If Ruby has just seen another dog or several rabbits, the next car we see warrants a reaction. Luckily, although I live near a very busy street, my townhome complex is in a sheltered area where we can navigate a decent 30-40 minute walk on fairly quiet side-streets and alleys. 

The good news is that things are quieting down as the seasons change. School has resumed and I've already noticed a difference in the evenings - kids are inside doing homework instead of rolling down the sidewalk on razor scooters and skateboards.  Soon enough our evening walks will be in the dark again - not something I love, but distractions are definitely diminished. Now that Boca has a good foundation I can get back to splitting training time between both dogs.

New Goals 
  • Continue Boca's training with focus on gradual exposure to more crowded/complex situations. I plan to take her to the farmers' market this weekend. 
  • Look into Canine Good Citizen preparation classes for Boca
  • Continue recall training with both dogs. Currently I'm able to call them away from barking downstairs with nearly 100% success. Consider long lines.
  • Resume solo training walks with Ruby and counter-conditioning with people/cars. (dogs are still very difficult to CC in uncontrolled situations). I believe 2-3 times a week is realistic.
  • Brush up on Ruby's tricks and apply for her Intermediate Trick Dog Title before the end of the year.
  • Continue working on DRI with Ruby and rabbits. Currently I am asking for a "sit" and this works fairly well.
  • Try the Calming Cap in the car with Ruby again.
There is never any shortage of stuff to work on with two smart dogs. Ruby is a complicated puzzle and Boca is a food-motivated goofball. They provide such a nice balance for me and I love seeing the ways their personalities contrast as their individual strengths shine. September and October are my favorite months in Colorado - they always feel so full of promise. I think it is the perfect time to re-dedicate myself to the ginger sisters' training. 

September 8, 2014

Are You Listening?

Recently I moved my Paso Fino gelding, Coro, who had been boarded over an hour away for the past year, to a new stable. My main goal was simply to have him closer to me, as I wanted to be able to visit and ride more often. I wanted an arena to ride in - it didn't have to be indoors - and ideally, some trails. Beyond that, all of my criteria were about Coro. I had several barn managers scoff at some of my considerations - mentioning that I wanted a place less busy or with more grazing -  and say things like "it shouldn't be about what your horse wants" or "who's running the show - you or your horse?" At 25 years old, with two significant health issues and having already experienced a lot of change in the last few years, my answer is that it is about what my horse wants, within reason. I know which conditions he does best under, and I'd like to see him thrive for ten more years. I wanted him to be able to graze most days, to have shelter in bad weather, an active but not stressful social life, and an individualized feeding program including his daily medications. If that meant I drive a little farther, don't have an indoor arena, or pay a bit more - so be it. After a month of searching, calling and driving, I did find that perfect place for my old guy - one I think we will both be very happy with. I did not choose the barn that was a short 11 miles from me, because it had no grazing. I did not choose the barn that had an indoor arena, a heated lounge and beautiful trail riding, because there were holes in the pastures and fewer turnout days. I prioritized Coro's needs and found a picturesque little red barn tucked away behind a hill that offers his own private pasture and a safe, airy run. He has already settled in wonderfully and I think I made the right choice.

My father believes that having pets at all is a selfish choice, and I see how this could be argued philosophically. Having rescue animals with known backgrounds, having seen exactly where they came from and how their lives are changed, I truly think my animals are better off with me and that Boca, especially, is so obviously grateful for her new home. Even if it is inherently selfish, I do my very best to make their lives as happy, healthy and fulfilled as I am able. I was raised to put animals first by a woman who ran into a burning barn to save our chickens and rabbits. You can see why my dedication to them might be construed as a little over the top, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I stumbled across an old blog post in support of shock collars the other day, and as disappointed as I was since this is a blog I regularly follow, I had to read its entirety as well as the comments. The most discouraging commenter stated that she "had" to use a shock collar in order to take her dog to the dog park or let it off leash - two activities that should be enjoyable to the dog, but because they caused it fear or anxiety and just were not within its realm of comfort, pain and intimidation was employed so that it could conform to the commenter's ideal of a "normal" dog. I find this rationale heartbreaking.

For me, it is far more important that I am interacting with my animals with softness, kindness and grace whenever possible, than that they are fitting into some cookie cutter standard of what they are "supposed" to do or existing in places of expectation. I have made many changes and compromises for Ruby and I do so without hesitation. I mourned the loss of some ideas I had about the dog I wanted her to be, but gained so much more in seeing the dog she is and what she has to teach me. There is nothing more valuable than her trust. In Boca, by some twist of tropical fortune, I very likely do have the farmers-market-dog, the coffee-shop-patio dog, but we're taking it slow. I am interested in conversation, not conformity, and I know that they have more to tell me than I could ever tell them. I think that if we are listening closely, if we let them "run the show" sometimes, our lives with animals can be infinitely more rewarding.

September 4, 2014

A Street Dog Goes to School


On Tuesday night, Boca graduated from her six-week adult obedience class at our local Kriser's. I loved our trainer and am so proud of Boca for her cheerful focus during each session. She now has a fabulous foundation and I think she could easily be a candidate for Canine Good Citizen certification.

There was only one other dog in our class, but being held in a retail store during business hours resulted in some unpredictable distractions and Boca handled each one calmly. She generally would lay down at my feet while the trainer was talking, and allowed strangers to pet her and step closely around her. 

Boca's greatest strength turned out to be her recall, which is a relief since that is one of my biggest struggles with Ruby. During one practice, Boca ran away from the trainer's treats and past a store employee squeaking a toy in order to barrel toward me with such enthusiasm that she nearly knocked me down. 

'Leave it' continues to be a challenge for Boca - the street dog doesn't understand why you would possibly want to ignore a piece of food! She exercises restraint about toys/moving objects, but those smelly treats are hard to resist. 

Her sit-stays and down-stays are improving, I am starting to be able to turn and walk away and walk partway around her. These exercises remind me of the Relaxation Protocol, something I need to return to as it benefits both dogs.

It was wonderful to see the change in Boca - from shy and worried in our first class to wagging her tail when we turned into the parking lot. We practiced polite greetings with the other dog and store employees, and I think Boca is ready for her first trip to the farmer's market, just in time for the fall season. I'm absolutely delighted with this awesome potcake. 

Boca's "white belt" hand-stitched by our trainer

September 3, 2014

WW 9.3.14: Smile

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