Occasionally, I will make the rounds and read blog posts keeping an eye out for new things I can make or do to bring good things to my dogs, and one post stood out to me on the Chewy.com blog, it was a recipe for No-Bake Trail Mix Bars.
The blog is well done and includes a whole section for “DIY & Recipes” that are super easy to build and make for people of any skill level.
I’m a huge fan of easy recipes. and hate making a huge mess in the kitchen for any reason. This recipe was easy, little mess, full of high-quality foods that my dogs (and I!) enjoyed eating.
The treats are made from a base of peanut butter and oatmeal with dried fruit and coconut mixed in. The recipe calls for ingredients with no added sugar, so the overall taste was different than what I was used to in commercial human trail mix, but I agree that less added sugar is a good thing.
All of the ingredients were readily available at my local Wegmans grocery store, and the directions were very easy to follow. The Chewy.com blog post has a video and pictures that make completing this treat very easy.
The two tricks I found to making this recipe succeed were:
Use your hands to mix the ingredients. Using a spoon or spatula wasn’t efficient.
Half of a cup of peanut butter wasn’t enough to make things stick together well, feel free to increase it.
Once you have the chia seeds soaked, add all the ingredients together. This recipe reminded me of a Christmas baking recipe from my childhood, peanut butter fruit balls rolled in coconut.
As a tip, ditch the spatula and use your hand. You can wear a glove or put your hand in a ziptop or sandwich bag to mix if you don’t want sticky hands.
The recipe suggests a 6×10-inch pan, which isn’t one I have. I swapped it out for a 9×9 which is a bit larger. Consequently, the bars that it created were thinner (which could have contributed to the crumbling I experienced). Feel free to use the size of pan you have. The trail mix consistency is think, dry, and light, so you could even use an empty snack cracker box that has a large side removed, or a clean take-out food container. This link will bring you to Amazon to check the price on their Pyrex glass baking pan set.
Once I had removed them from the pan, they started to fall apart. Increasing the peanut butter is highly recommended. The recipe says to wrap each bar separately in plastic wrap. Instead of that, I put all the bars (and crumbles!) in to an air-tight container. These ‘dog treats’ are just as edible for humans, so the dogs and I snacked on them in the upcoming days.
Mickey was having a diva moment and didn’t want to stand up for his treat, so he devoured it lying down. I probably should have made him shake a paw or speak before he got it, but I was more concerned about his reaction to the taste than his training!
In conclusion, this was a very easy, quick, no-fuss, DIY treat that is nutritionally good for both the dogs and I.
As any pet person can attest, commercial dog toys are expensive! It’s easy to spend $10 or more on a toy that – for heavy chewers like mine – can easily destroy in a day or two.
Having places to go for free or low cost toys is important both for my wallet, and to keep my dogs minds active and challenged.
The first suggestion for affordable dog toys is to create them yourself using safe items around the house. A quick search on Google brought up this page from Care.com that lists 17 DIY Dog Toys You Can Make From Things In Your House. They range from tug toys, to interactive feeders, and include crunchy toys like a water bottle in a braided bed sheet. Creative and inexpensitve!
The next suggestion is subscription boxes. Less expensive than buying toys individually is if you buy them in groups. Often, the price per toy is less when you commit to a year of boxes, and they are sent to you in groups. Services like Bark Box add treats into each box, so if you don’t normally buy bagged treats, you might not see the ‘toy’ savings.
An alternative to Bark Box, is the curated Goody Box from Chewy.com. Having purchased a few of these, I can speak to their value. They are heavy on the treats, but do include a toy or two. The evolving nature of these boxes means that they change over time and, you aren’t committed to a year of shipments.
Thinking outside the box, literally and figuratively, I saw a promotion at my local grocery store pharmacy that featured a free flying disc and waste dispenser if you talked to a Wegmans pharmacist about having your pet medication filled through them, they gave you the toys for free! (As an aside, the medication savings can be substantial). I picked up this free toy the other day while doing my grocery shopping! This was a limited-time promotion and was subject to availability, but this is one less toy I need to buy!
The third source that came to mind was through local animal shelter garage sales. Often these organisations will receive donations from local big box stores of out-of-season merchandise. This benefits the store as a tax savings, and benefits the shelter through the proceeds of the sale. Be sure to check your local newspaper our online garage sale listing site to find out when and where these sales are.
Supporting local shelters is a great way to ensure they can continue to care for animals without a home, and a great place for you to find brand-new, low cost dog toys.
I used to go to the big box groomer every six weeks to have Dexter washed, cut, and nails clipped, but after some research online, watching some videos, and buying some inexpensive things from Amazon, I was able to successfully start grooming him at home.
Home grooming isn’t “hard” but it does require some preparation and precision. When I first started, I was glad that he didn’t have to go to school like a child, or his friends would make fun of him. It was bad. Over the last year that I have been doing this, my technique has improved, I am able to follow the same grooming process, and the result is a dog who is presentable in public.
Getting to the place where I decided to start grooming my shih tzu at home wasn’t quick. At first I didn’t think I could. I thought that dog grooming was best left up to the people at the pet store. After a while, though, I realized that they didn’t have any fancy equipment that I couldn’t build or buy, and the only thing I needed to invest was time rather than money.
Top Five Reasons I Chose to Groom My Dog At Home Are:
Reduces Stress On My Dog
Be In Control of the Process
Reduced Investment of Time for Me
Learning A New Skill
Reducing Stress on On My Dog – The biggest motivator for me to look into grooming at home was the stress I could see in Dexter when he returned home. He would run around the house to get caught up on all the smells, then he would pass out from exhaustion. He is a shih-tzu/terrier mix; a high-energy alert dog. He needs to know about every noise that happens, and has big enough burst of energy to continually bark or chase whatever he alerts to, real or imagined. I knew that spending most of a day at the grooming salon was keeping him on edge the entire time. There were so many dogs, people, and sounds that he couldn’t relax.
Be In Control of the Process – While I trust the grooming salon and the pet store completely, my dog is almost like a child to me. He is a member of the family and I want to ensure that I do the best I can to place him in situations where he will be well taken care of. I was fully confident leaving him with them, and had done so for several years, but even then you hear of stories on the news where something happens to a dog in their care. The rational part of my brain says that these stories are the exception, and there are thousands of successful grooming sessions for every one mistake, but I knew that I could eliminate even that small chance by taking over this responsibility.
Also, I can control the how he looks at the end. Rather than describing the look I want to the groomer then leaving it to them, then potentially having to stay later to have them fix any issues, By doing it myself I could cut his fur to the length I desired the first time. If his tail wasn’t coming out correctly, or his face was too long, I could fix it on the spot as I went. I could control which shampoo was used, I could control the length of the grooming session, I could control the environment, I could control the final look. I wouldn’t have a problem going back to a groomer, but I also like being able to pick and decide each step of the way as well.
Reducing My Investment of Time – The pet store grooming salon is about a 15 minute drive from my house. Not only would I have to drive there and back once to get Dexter to them, but also there and back again to pick him up. Give the amount of time it takes for them to complete the wash & groom process, and the comparative amount of time it takes me to do errands in that same area, it involved a lot of driving. Literally, I would spend an hour of the day just driving to and from the groomer. On top of that, I would be tied to my phone waiting for their call that he was ready. He could be ready at 4pm, he could be ready at 6pm depending on a lot of factors (drop off time, the number of other dogs, etc…). I might be in the middle of a project at that time. I could be just not in the mood to go back out for him; the timing was just unpredictable. In the time it took me to drive to drop him off and pick him up, plus the uncertainty of when he would be done, I would rather schedule my own time and invest an hour to an hour and a half to do it myself.
Cost – Cost is certainly a factor in any decision. Looking at prices around me, some of the national chains pricing ranges from $29 – $131 for a bath and cut. Exact pricing depends on the size and breed, but even a small, easy to groom dog requiring grooming every 6 weeks would need eight sessions per year at $30, so the yearly cost would be $240. I will list below what I use. Most of them are one-time expenses, and they add up to less that $250, so there is an immediate savings. Granted, some of what you are paying for is the training and experience the groomers have, but with enough practice I feel confident that grooming your dog of any breed at home is attainable.
Learning a New Skill – Last, I am a curious person by nature. I like to know how things work and I like to build my skill level wherever possible. Taking up the challenge to learn about dog grooming was something that fascinated me, and that I took with and ran. Do I feel like I would want to do this for other people’s dogs? No. Would I ever consider leaving my job and doing this full-time? No. What I do have, though, is the satisfaction of not knowing anything about this, and becoming okay at it. And continually improving!
Below I will list the supplies I use when grooming my dog at home. Following that I will link to some videos from Wahl that demonstrate how you can groom many dog breeds yourself.
(The Wahl set comes with a pair of scissors and a plastic comb, but both are of okay quality. I opted to buy a separate set of scissors because it included stainless steel scissors, and a stainless steel comb)
Dexter with his FreshWave shampoo and the AquaPaw connected to the shower.
These videos from Wahl are clearly from decades past, but the techniques they demonstrate are time-tested.
This is the video the designer of the AquaPaw produced when it was first introduced to demonstrate its use.