Fun & Delicious

Trikin’ with your Pooch

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways for my dogs to get exercise. I’m a firm believer that “a tired dog is a happy dog.” I don’t get the opportunity to get them as worn out as I’d like every day, but regular exercise is key to a sound mind and body.

I walk my dogs daily, but there is nothing like a good run to get the kinks out. Since I’m not a runner or a rollerblader, the next best thing for me is a bicycle.

The problem with running a dog alongside a bike is the unsteadiness of it all if the dog decides to stop suddenly or head in the other direction. Personally, I like to be able to keep both hands gripping the handlebars, not just one. Plus, I have two dogs to exercise, which increases the odds one of us will end up tangled in the spokes.

I decided I need to find some other kind of cycle, one that would allow for more stability and would allow me to be closer to the dogs level so I could keep an eye on them more easily. I wanted to know if my dogs were eager to run faster or if they were falling behind, or if they got something stuck in their paw and were limping.

dog running along side bicycle trikeAfter looking online I found a number of sites that featured some kind of contraption that would allow the dogs to pull you along, but I wanted to actually get some exercise in the bargain, and decided that wasn’t for me.

This led me to start researching adult tricycles. There were quite a few out there, and Wal-Mart even sold one, but in my reading it seemed that the regular trikes weren’t that great at going around corners. Plus, I wanted to ride a bit lower down.

This narrowed the field considerably, and I ended up researching recumbent trikes. Some of them have you super close to the ground, which isn’t what I wanted. Seemed too much like lying down to me, which would make it harder to see what was going on around you. No, I wanted to be higher than that. Luckily, someone else thought this was a good idea, and I ended up on the website of a company named Sun Bicycles.

I really wanted to try one out, but none of the local bike shops carried any. So basically I had to buy one sight unseen and hope for the best. I wasn’t ready to plunk down $900 for something I just thought would work in theory, and so decided research rental options.

As it turns out, Venice Beach is filled with bicycle rental shops, and I was able to track down a place that rented recumbent trikes. Woo Hoo! We packed up the car with my pooches and headed to the sand. My boyfriend and I each took one dog, and set off down the crowded sidewalk. Felt funny at first but the dogs took to it right away and I know I had a winner of a plan.

It was easy to pedal, felt super comfortable, and the dogs loved it. I got to watch them trot along, eyes glittering, tongues out, wind in their hair. They looked great and we all had a blast. That settled it. I would get my own trike.

I contacted Sun Bicycles and they gave me a list of local bike shops that would assemble it for me. The next thing was to figure out how to attach the dogs to the bike. I bought a metal spring-loaded contraption that attached to the frame of the bike, but this didn’t last long as we could never get it tight enough to where it wouldn’t start moving out of place. Besides, it was too rigid and didn’t allow enough movement for the dog.

Turns out all I needed was a good harness (I like the Easy Walk Harnass, which I turn around for trike rides so the clip area is between their shoulders) and a stretchy leash, and I was able to find a heavy duty model on that worked like a charm. The trick was to tie it far enough back (I now keep it attached it behind my seat) so the dogs can’t cross in front of the front tire. It’s just long enough so that I can have both dogs on my right side, but short enough that they can’t get too far away. Perfect!

Now I’m able to ride around the neighborhood with my dogs and not worry about tipping over if they decide to stop suddenly—I just feel a gentle tug. An added benefit is that my elbows don’t hurt riding my trike the way they would on a bike. It’s like sitting in a chair. Your upper body can be totally relaxed, but your legs still have to a little extra work as you don’t have the ability to sit up in your seat and use your weight on the pedals. That’s okay by me. My legs will just be in better shape.

I avoid busy streets for safety reasons, and choose the quietest streets possible because it makes for a more enjoyable ride. An added bonus, is that everybody who sees us does a double take and gives me a big grin and a thumbs up. “Now that’s the way to do it!” they say. “Where can I get one?”

To see my trike in action, watch this short video of us heading up my street.

If you decide you’d like a trike, too, I’d recommend getting a side mirror so you can see cars coming up from behind, a light for when it starts getting dark, a reflector for the back, a bell so you can alert people you are nearby, and an orange flag so you are very visible. Although they don’t sell Sun Trikes on Amazon, there are a number of other less expensive models to choose from, some of which I’ve posted in the left column.

Photo Credit: Scott Mucci (top) and Richard Masoner

Knitting a Dog Sweater the Easy Way

Believe it or not, you can create a sweater for a small to medium-sized dog in about the amount of time it takes to watch a couple of movies—and when you get comfortable with the pattern, you can even do it during the movie.

The sweater I like to make for donating to dogs in Mexico is a very simple model that is made in the garter stitch (the simplest knitting stitch there is), and you can embellish it with a bit of a collar if you like.

This sweater is made in two pieces that you can stitch together at the end.

What you will need

  • Set of #12 or #13 needles or #14 for the ultrathick yarn
  • 1 skein of thick yarn
  • 1 large-eye needle

All of this will set you back about $5…Woo Hoo! I buy my supplies at Michael’s, but PayLess often has good deals on yarn, and you can always get it online. Now for the Pattern.

Simple Dog Sweater

Note: larger sizes are indicated in parentheses)

Back Piece

Cast on 25 (31, 37, 43) stitches. Work in Garter Stitch until piece measures 7 (12, 14, 16) inches  from beginning.

Decrease Row: K 1, K2 tog, K to last 3 stitches, K2 togl, K 1. Just 23 (29, 35, 41) stitches should now remain.

Knit 3 more rows, then do another Decrease Row every 4th row, 4 (4, 5, 7) more times. You should then have 15 (21, 25, 27) stitches remaining. Bind off.

Tummy Piece

Cast on 11 (13, 15, 17) stitches. Work in Garter Stitch until piece measures 5 1/2 (8 1/4, 11 1/4, 11 3/4) inches from beginning.

Decrease Row: K 1, K2 tog, K to last 3 stitches, K2 tog, K 1 until 9 (11, 13, 15) stitches remain.

Knit 4 rows. Repeat Decrease Row ever 5th row 2 (3, 4, 5) more times until 5 stitches remain. Bind off.


Starting from bind off edge, sew sides of Tummy Piece to Back Piece for 2 ( 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2) inches. Leave the next 3 (3 1/2 4, 4 1/2) inches open on each side for legs, then sew closed remaining length of sides.

How easy is that? For a variation, more experienced knitters may want to add a few inches of ribbed collar.

Here is what the sweaters look like on. This one has a bit of a ribbed collar but they look just as nice without. If you are a first-time knitter, there are a lot of resources online for learning the basics, or you may want to rope in a friend to show you how.

red standard poodle wearing a blue sweater So if you are looking for a low-cost way to contribute something to doggie-kind, consider knitting some doggie sweaters for us. Send us a photo of your work and we will add it to the story! 

Contact amanda@wraycodesign for information on where to donate your doggie sweaters. If you think you might want to join in on a regular knitting circle, join our MeetUp group and indicate you are interested!

Please Note: I’m not able to answer any more questions about measuring. 

Photo Credit: Andrew Acomb (top)

Making Dog Food & Treats

Making your own dog food is more economical and easier than you might think. The alternative title for this article could also be “how to stop your dog from eating his own poop,” but I might not get as many readers because of the gross out factor.

Actually, I can’t be certain this will work, but of all the dog owners I’ve queried on this and the subject of dogs eating inappropriate things (including non-food items), they share one thing in common: They only feed their dogs dry kibble.

Think about it. Here is this wonderful creature with this amazing sense of smell (which goes along way toward tasting food as well), with the ability to sniff out mere traces of molecules, as studies have shown, and we are feeding it the equivalent of cardboard with flavoring and a large dose of yuck (read about animal digest, a common ingredient in many dog foods).

The same thing, day after day. Wouldn’t you grow tired of that?

And with this incredible nose, dogs intrinsically can determine the most nutritious item in front of them and will choose to eat it over any other item. Put a steak in front of them and a liver and they will eat the liver because it’s way more nutritious.

Sometimes I will test out a new brand of chip on my dog and if he won’t eat it I won’t either. Likely there is not enough nutrition to make it worthwhile. He can be choosey because he is well fed and not starving and desperate for nutrition.

You know that if a dog is constantly seeking out nutrition in poop, he is likely in need of a diet re-evaluation. If you ask a vet or a pet-food expert, they may steer you into buying more products designed to curb your dog’s tendencies, but then you are just shelling out more money on a crap-shoot (ha-ha) and not really addressing the underlying issue.

Now I’m not claiming to be a nutrition expert, but am simply laying out one theory that so far has borne good results.

My conclusion is this: dogs have evolved eating our scraps for more than 5,000 years, and so that is actually what they are used to eating and as long as what we are eating is healthy, is perfectly fine to share it with them.

I don’t buy the hooey about “people” food being bad for dogs. There is no such thing. There is high-quality and low-quality food and stuff that is barely recognizable as food.

I don’t think we have to wind the clock back further to the “wolf days” before the dog was domesticated (what proponents of the raw diet believe), but I do believe that we could have fewer vet bills and behavioral issues in the long run if we just gave our dogs a bit more “real” food to eat.

By “real” food I mean higher quality food and a variety of food items, excepting a few no-no foods like raisins, raw onions and chocolate.

Now for the fun part…what I actually feed my dogs and how I came to cooking it myself.

It was during the first major dog food scare over ingredients coming from China that were causing organ failure in dogs that I started to contemplate making my own dog food. I bought a couple of books on dog nutrition and consulted my vet.

My vet was against it as she didn’t think it would be possible to get the critical calcium/phosphorus balance in the diet (she insisted I include organ meat, which I do). During this time, I was feeding my young dog a combination of canned and dry food, and purchasing dried chicken and liver treats for snacks.

I researched the dog food brands and tried to find a high quality brand, but it seemed like most of them got their ingredients from China, and it was hard for them to trace the ingredient origins much further. This did not sit well with me, and at every meal I watched my dog’s reaction to the food.

Usually the first day he was enthusiastic enough, but as the days progressed he was less and less interested, and by day 4 or 5, didn’t want to eat it. I wonder if he got a bad feeling from it.

Rather than try to coax him to eat something that was likely not so great, I would switch to a brand I thought might be better, but the same thing happened over and over. Finally, a light went on in my head and I decided that if I purchased meat when it went on sale, I might be able to actually make the wet food myself for cheaper that it cost me to buy it in the cans.

I buried myself in my doggie nutrition books and also looked for recipes online. Finally I settled on one that seemed to address most of the recommendations:

Amanda’s Homemade Dog Food

This recipe feeds my two standard poodles for about 12 days, and makes about 18 lbs of food, which we put in 24 oz containers and freeze. Each container feeds both dogs for one day.

  • 10-12 lbs muscle meat
  • 2-3 lbs organ meat
  • 12 cups cooked rice (4 cups dry)
  • 6  medium carrots
  • 4 medium yams
  • ¼ cup seaweed
  • ¼ cup crushed eggshells or bonemeal

To cook the meat, I purchased a 5 gallon tamale pot from Target for $19. We throw in everything together except the seaweed and eggshells, which can be added after the other ingredients are cooked. Also, we pre-steam the carrots since they take so long to soften.

It’s important for all ingredients to be soft and cooked so they will get down the chute of the grinder without clogging it up.

Cooking will usually take a couple of hours and it only needs minimal stirring after it’s been brought to a boil and covered and put on low.  During this time you can relax or set up the grinder and containers for the next part.

We got our first grinder from Bed Bath and Beyond (a Cuisinart), but it kept breaking so we returned it. I researched grinders on and ended up getting one that was the best reviewed and haven’t been sorry. It’s worth spending about $200 on it and will save you many headaches later.

Once all the ingredients are cooked and removed from heat, get out a couple of large mixing bowls to capture the ground mixture and start putting your items down the chute and watch them come out as dog food on the other end!

This is not a quick process but more of a zen-like one. You must do it at a fairly slow pace so things don’t get jammed up. It should take about 30 minutes. After you have finished you can mix in the seaweed and crushed eggshells (or bonemeal). Voila! Dog food!

Line up your containers and start filling them with a big spoon. I try to make sure there are no air pockets as this will allow them to keep better when they are frozen. When you are done you should have about 12+ containers. Keep one fresh one in the fridge and put the rest in the freezer.

For our dogs, we simply give them each a quarter serving per meal, and take out a new container every day to thaw (takes about a half day). My dog is now a happy camper and never gets tired of his food.

I also “free” feed him dry kibble, meaning it’s always available if he feels hungry. He often nibbles on it after his meal if he’s still hungry. You might think he’d get over weight, but he doesn’t. People always remark about the ideal weight of my dogs.

After this became a routine, there was one thing left for me to do: make my own dog treats. This may sound like a lot of work but it’s actually quite easy if you have the right equipment. I purchased a dehydrator from Amazon and it’s been a wonderful addition to my kitchen.

For treats, all I do is purchase some chicken or beef, slice it up, and put it on the dehydrator trays and leave it overnight on the dehydrator’s beef jerky setting. When I get up the next morning, “Voila!” fresh dog treats.

We also make spiced beef jerky for ourselves, along with wonderful dried fruit. The dehydrator can also be used for rising bread dough and many other things. It continues to be a beneficial purchase.

So in conclusion I can say that it’s really not that hard to do if you make it a routine, and you will feel better about knowing a little bit more about what is in your dog’s food.

And your dog, when he knows he’s going to get a satisfying nutritious meal twice a day and high quality snacks in-between, he’s not going to desperately scan the countertops every chance he gets, so see what kind of scrap he can steal.

I also make sure to give my dogs tidbits of what I’m eating so they don’t ever have the urge to sneak food. So if your dog is having issues, I definitely recommend trying some home-cooked meals, or at the very least, some canned food if all you are feeding is dry.

Both you, and your canine companion, will rest easier.