“But what IS Phoebe?”

Phoebe is many things. She’s a companion, a friend, a protector and above all else, a loved and trusted family member. But I know that’s not what people mean when they ask this question. What they really want to know is how to classify her and pigeon-hole her by her supposed ‘breed characteristics’.

The answer is that she is an AfriCanis. Most people don’t know much about the breed, and because it’s only recently been added as an “Official” breed by the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA), people still tend to refer to her as a “township dog”, or more generally just as a “mixed breed Rescue dog” even after being told about her breed history. She’s so much more than a hodge-podge collection of other breeds – she’s unique and fits the wonderful characteristics of the AfriCanis to a “T”.

Phoebe: Proud and Beautiful AfriCanis

Phoebe: Proud and Beautiful AfriCanis

 

I’ve briefly touched on her breed specifics before during on Day 11 of the Blogtober Challenge, but felt this deserved more information on the little known facts of this wonderful breed.

I was going to try to explain the breed in my experience, but I found this excellent historical summary from the AfriCanis Society that explains in detail in a way much better than I ever could:

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(This is attributed to Edith Gallant at the AfriCanis Society of South Africa facebook page)

“Subject: Revised draft of letter – Difference between AfriCanis and “township dog”

Let me try to explain the difference between an AfriCanis and a so-called township dog.

The AfriCanis is the traditional rural African dog found in traditional isolated tribal lands, such as the interior of Zululand, the former Transkei, Sekhukhuneland and Vendaland.

The apartheid regime kept such rural areas marginalized, and people living in these areas, notably in the former ‘Bantustan’regions, were relatively isolated. This isolation was extended to their dogs. From colonial times, white people looked upon these dogs with contempt, and any dogs found trespassing were shot. It is largely because of the isolation enforced by apartheid that these dogs, having been kept separate, still exist.

These dogs have also been called ‘Nguni dogs’ or ‘Bantu dogs’, because they migrated with the Early Iron Age Bantu-speaking people into southern Africa. They also occur in northern Botswana, Namibia,  Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland.

More information can be found on the AfriCanis Society’s website under ‘History’ (see http:// ………

The AfriCanis are not identified by standardised physical characteristics. They are a landrace and not a breed. They have not been selectively bred for their looks, but rather they exemplify survival of the fittest and are well adapted to the demands of their environment and their custodians. They differ from region to region, for example, they are generally taller in the desert and smaller in more forested regions. These dogs occur in a great variety of colours, as do the Nguni cattle. Genetic DNA research has found a specific DNA marker for the AfriCanis that differs from any other dog (see under ‘literature’ on the website). In the very near future we will be able to test individual dogs to see if they carry this marker or not.

AfriCanis are all-rounders. In the traditional tribal lands, each day they help herd boys bring the cattle to and from the grazing lands, and the dogs fiercely guard the animals in their kraals at the night. The dogs live alongside the farm animals, and although they are excellent rat hunters, they do not hunt large prey alone. Traditionally, they assist their owners when men and their dogs hunt for the pot.

Dogs in the rural areas are seldom tied up. Although they sometimes roam, each dog has an owner and each dog is named. Dogs are allowed to go to visit another homestead if a female is on heat. But if owners whistle for their dogs, they immediately respond and return home. Most commonly, the dogs are to be found lying around the homesteads, often keeping company with older women and children. This is a totally different environment to that of a township.

What is a ‘township dog’?

A legacy of apartheid, townships are urban or peri-urban residential areas housing people from different cultures and origins. Historically, under apartheid townships were zoned for Black and Coloured people. When moving to urban areas, people from the countryside did not usually bring their traditional dogs with them, leaving the dogs in the rural areas with their families. In instances where rural dogs did come to the townships with their owners, in due course they would breed with dogs roaming in the township areas. Dogs in the townships come from a variety of backgrounds and include a variety of breeds and cross-breeds of all shapes and sizes as well as some traditional AfriCanis. In the townships these dog interbreed and the ‘township dogs’ that result over time are not traditional Africanis dogs, though some can be described as the AfriCanis type or an AfriCanis-cross.

I hope the above explains the difference between an AfriCanis and a township dog, and that not all cross-breed dogs from the townships should be described as being AfriCanis.”

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For more information you can also check out the Official AfriCanis historical reference page here.

I hope this has given you more insight and a deeper curiousity for these wonderful dogs. I can truly attest to the fact that you will never find a kinder, gentler and more loyal companion than an AfriCanis, so if you’re looking for a new dog to add to your family I urge you to look for one of these amazing dogs!

Apple & Oat Puppy Bites

I have many different talents and skills, but I must be honest an admit that being a culinary genius does not rank amongst them. Don’t get me wrong, with a lot of practice and hard work I can now confidently whip up a meal for a group of dinner guests without the threat of poisonings or having the house burn down (mostly), but being in the kitchen doesn’t come naturally so I’m usually weary. This changes however when my taste testers are my canine kids.

In their eyes everything I whip up is absolutely delicious and truly gourmet! This means that I love finding new treat recipes for them, and regularly use them as rewards for training and good behaviour.

We’ve run out of treats, and my cupboards closely represent those of Old Mother Hubbard, so I searched for treats that were simple in terms of ingredients and skill level. That’s when I came across this great recipe from Two Little Cavaliers for Apple and Cinnamon Treats.

These were quick, easy and they passed the all important taste test!

Apple & Oat Pup Bites

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Oatmeal
  • 1 Cup Apple Sauce
  • Pinch of Cinnamon
  • 2 Large Eggs

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 180C (about 350F)
  • Combine oats, apple sauce and cinnamon
  • Add eggs to the mixture and combine until sticky and smooth
  • Scoop into molds, or drop a teaspoon full onto greased and oiled baking sheet and flatten slightly (this is what I did)
  • Bake in oven for +/- 25 minutes
  • Allow to cool
  • Give some to the dogs to test, and store the rest in an airtight container

… and of course the pictorial recipe review:

ingredients

Combine

Mix Egge

bake

result

Dogtails’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Training, Nutrition, Food, FUN

Tool(s) Used: Your kitchen and baking skills

Cost: Low

Ease of Implementation: Easy

Effectiveness Rating: 5/5 I wasn’t very sure if the dogs would like the apple and cinnamon taste as it’s a new one to them, but I’m happy to report that they all gobbled them up!

…. and don’t worry, I learnt my lesson from last time so these were introduced sloooowly and carefully to avoid any major tummy upsets! 🙂

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Do you ever make your own homemade treats for the dogs? If so, what do you make?

#DogTreatFail: More Tummy Troubles

Another week of dealing with the Dreaded Digestive Distress! 😦 This time it’s for Bella and Rocky.

So this week I decided to bake the dogs some treats for when we are around the house and going for walks. I decided to make another batch of Phoebe & Cooper’s Peanut Butter Deliciousness that Phoebe and Cooper loved so much, and got cracking in the kitchen.

This is such a quick and easy recipe that I finished a double batch within an hour, and was waiting to let the treats cool before storing them in containers and in the deepfreeze. As usual Phoebe and Cooper very calmly but expectantly came to lie by the kitchen door to watch me as I work, knowing that they would be first in line to get any stray pieced of dough and would help with the “cleaning” of utensils. Rocky and Bella are still figuring out that there’s often “food falling from the sky” if there’s a human in the kitchen, but they too eventually sauntered into the kitchen eagerly waiting for an exciting taste of whatever was being made up on those counters!

Who would've thought that these tasty bites could cause so much trouble? And look, I even made little personalised cookies for each of the dogs!

Who would’ve thought that these tasty bites could cause so much trouble? And look, I even made little personalised cookies for each of the dogs!

Rocky and Bella have never had these before, and I was excited to see how much they would enjoy this new treat. Well, they certainly enjoyed it, but I made an absolute rookie mistake in allowing them to overindulge on dough and cookies that afternoon…. I hadn’t slowly tested and introduced the new food….

I’m sure many of you can now guess where this post is going… *sigh*

Yup, I hadn’t considered the fact that Bella and Rocky have never really been spoiled dogs. Loved, yes. But not really doted on physically and emotionally. Ergo, they’ve barely had any dog treats in their lives, nevermind decadent peanut butter ones!

And so, my happiness at their joy at gobbling up these treats and excitedly snacking on dough balls was very suddenly turned right around when I woke up the next morning only to find multiple puddles of smelly diarrhea all over the house. (They are house trained, but unlike the other dogs they don’t “ask” to go out if the door to the outside is closed. If it’s closed they just take it as a sign that anywhere else in the house is fair game. **double sigh** Yes, it’s something we’re working on!)

The worst part of it all wasn’t even cleaning up the mess all over, but how guilty I felt that I was the cause of so much tummy ache! Bella totally refused to eat, even turning away from hand feeding meat bits and Rocky only nibbled a bit here and there. The poor things!

Spending the day in recovery. Bella stares mournfully out of the window as her tummy grumbles, and Rocky sleeps the day away...

Spending the day in recovery. Bella stares mournfully out of the window as her tummy grumbles, and Rocky sleeps the day away…

Luckily it only took them 1 day to bounce back to their normal selves. The linen and wooden floors didn’t recover back to normal in quite such a short time, but I suppose all that elbow grease and inhalation of cleaning fumes was a good way to make sure I never again forget to test those new foods out sloooowly!

Rocky & Bella’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Treats, Nutrition

Tool(s) Used: Your kitchen and baking skills

Cost: Low

Ease of Implementation: Easy. Well, I find all unintentional failures at trying something out happen to go off fairly easily and spectacularly.

Effectiveness Rating: I’m still gonna stick with a 5/5 for the biscuits for Phoebe and Cooper. For Rocky and Bella however  I’m going to have to go with a total #DogTreatFail of 1/5. Luckily they got better quickly without needing veterinary care and that a day long fast fixed everything that had been disturbing their digestion, but from now on I know to be far more careful of what and how many treats they have at a time!

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Recently Cooper also had some tummy troubles (though a bit more serious), so I’m learning the signs, symptoms, and how to clean up after a dog very quickly! Have you got any tips on avoiding the Dreaded Digestive Distress issues?

DIY Fun Food Dispensing by ‘Barking Mad’

I’m always on the lookout for fun, easy and affordable activities for dogs. Particularly through my long journey with Phoebe, I came to realise how very important it is that dogs have some way of keeping themselves busy so that they remain healthy in body, mind and soul.

I’ve previously posted about how wonderful the Kong is, as well as a post on some home-made puzzle bottle food dispensers you can make. I saw this on the facebook of one of my favourite rescue organisations, Barking Mad, and just had to share this easy Kong alternative.

Here is the simple instructions as they posted them:

“So with the heat, come mid day, the last thing the dogs feel like is a walk up the mountain. So we have created peanut butter bomb snacks and meals for them to pass the time and keep their minds busy. We vary the peanut butter with liver spread. We place a blob of peanut butter at the bottom of the bucket then put in some of their kibble with a few slices of hot dog mixed in. Then we fill the bucket up with water and put it in the deep freeze and voila a great treat that will cool them and down and keep them pretty busy for a while you can do this with kongs to or empty margarine tubs

barking mad diy dog treats

 Here they are in the deep freeze once they are frozen the dogs will have a great time. Some of these we have made as per their meal portions with a few little treats, others are just small treats versions to keep them busy. “

barking mad diy dogs treats

Some of the Dogtown SA residents enjoying their treats

It’s so heart-warming to see how much work Barking Mad puts into not only rescuing dogs, but also how much they try to help and complete them to become adoptable and happy. The dogs at Dogtown SA truly are lucky!

If you are in South Africa, remember to go click on their site to feed the dogs, and to sms “Dog” to 38919 to donate!

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I will be trying this out this weekend to see how much the dogs enjoy it (but judging by their love of the Kong, I’m pretty certain this will be a hit!

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Separation Anxiety, Mental Stimulation, Play, Haet stroke

Tool(s) Used: Any empty containers, water, kibble, snacks

Cost: Low.

Ease of Implementation: Low. You can premake it, put in the deep freeze then just grab and go whenever you need one

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5 for Mental Stimulation and Play. The concept of these kong-type treats are all the same, and will be loved by all. And like the Kong, this also doubles up a s a great way to control your dogs’ temperature in the rising summer heat!

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DIY Puzzle Food Dispenser – Filling Bottles

An affordable alternative to the Kong! This easy to DIY food dispenser is great for improving those sniffing skills, mental stimulation, and providing slow feeding.

When Phoebe first came to me she was struggling with a number of issues, but the most lingering of them was her severe separation anxiety. I checked the internet, read books on the subject and consulted our trusty dog Behaviourist to find solutions to her extreme distress at being left home alone.

On the advice of the Behaviourist I decided that first and foremost I needed to find a way to distract Phoebe in a way that would keep her mind and body occupied. The discovery of the Kong was heaven-sent for me, but I needed more to keep her busy. My budget didn’t allow for the purchase of multiple Kong‘s, so a new plan had to be made.

The Behaviourist had a great suggestion – using plastic bottles as an alternative to the Kong. And what a great idea it is!

All I had to do was portion out Phoebe’s dry food for the day and place them in the bottles, add a taste of something that smells and tastes delicious then scatter them across the yard before leaving.

Here are the simple steps to creating puzzle bottle dog food dispensers:

Step 1: Find a suitable plastic bottle. Any bottle will do. Here I used some of kid’s sparkling juice bottles as they were small, but I usually use empty water bottles that have been washed and dried.

phoebe bottles

Step 2: Take empty bottles, wash and wait for inside to be completely dry. We keep a bag in the kitchen where all the emptied and cleaned bottles are kept to be used whenever we need them.

bottles

Step 3: Fill bottle with small-medium size kibble. Quantity will depend on how many bottles you are using and how you have measured out the full food intake for the day. You don’t need a lot in the bottle – just enough to rattle around and fall out when manipulated.

kibble bottles

Step 4: Take a teaspoon of anything that your dog thinks is tasty and will be able to sniff out in the yard and slather it over the top part of the bottle (don’t close the bottle top as kibble still needs to fall out easily). I usually swap between cream cheese, anchovy spread and peanut butter.

kibble bottle flavour

Step 5: Scatter bottle(s) in the yard and watch as the dogs enjoy sniffing them out, licking off the delicious paste, and then playing with it until every single bit of kibble spills out and is eaten!

kibble bottles

And there you have it! A quick, easy way to give your dog a treat while exercising body, mind and soul! 🙂

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Separation Anxiety, Mental Stimulation, Play

Tool(s) Used: Any empty drinking bottles; various food ingredients

Cost: Low.

Ease of Implementation: Low. You can premake it by filling a number of bottles with measured out amounts of kibble to just grab and go

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5 for Mental Stimulation and Play. Phoebe enjoys rolling the bottle around the garden until there is nothing left inside, then goes of exploring for the next filled bottle!

Note: Surprisingly neither Phoebe nor Cooper has ever tried to just rip the bottle in half with their teeth, opting to naturally rather enjoy the puzzle side of it by throwing it around and rolling it with their paws and mouth. I suspect most dogs like GSD’s or Pitties would probably be impatient and just rip the thing in half, possibly cutting themselves on the exposed plastic bits. So I recommend you supervise your dog the first few times just to make sure they have the hang of it, if not, rather stick to the hardier and stronger Kong.

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Have you got any other DIY ideas for play and stimulation? I’m always looking to try something new so feel free to leave suggestions!

Phoebe & Cooper’s Peanut Butter Biscuit Deliciousness

Treat time! I’ve previously experimented with baking homemade Liver Biscuits for Phoebe when my Mom came to visit last year, and boy, were they a hit! In fact, they were such a success that I decided that it was time to try my hand at baking once again, but this time I wanted to try a sweet treat to see if I could continue bringing smiles onto the faces of my happy, food-driven dogs.

I scoured the internet and found so many different recipes, and most seem to have the same basic ingredients, and also matched my (very low) baking skill levels. I finally decided to try out a basic recipe for Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits.

***Spoiler Alert***

They were a huge resounding success! Not only were they easy and quick to make, but they were also a firm favourite for both Cooper and Phoebe! If you’re looking for something fun to do for your dog and a way to pass an empty hour, then this is what you should get cracking on doing! They are also low fuss and easy to make if you have kids in the house and want them to do a fun, indoor activity.

But enough of the talk, let’s get on with the recipe and instructions:

Phoebe & Cooper’s Peanut Butter Biscuit Deliciousness

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (low salt)
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 180C (about 350F)
  • Combine Flour and Baking Powder in a large bowl
  • In a separate bowl combine milk and peanut butter until smooth
  • Slowly mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in a bowl until mixed to a “dough-y” consistency
  • Lightly flour a surface
  • Roll dough on flour surface and knead until soft
  • Use cookie cutters to make shapes and place on greased oven pan
  • Bake in oven for +/-15 minutes
  • Once baked through place on cooling rack to cool,
  • Give one to the dogs for the all important “taste test”, then place in containers for storage

See? Easy peasy! Here’s a few pictures of the process:

dog biscuits dry ingredients

dog biscuits wet ingredients

dog biscuits mix

Dog biscuits dough

Dog biscuits enjoy

These will last in an air-tight container for about 2 weeks, but can also be sealed and frozen in the deep freeze for up to 3 months.

Remember to reward your kitchen helpers!

Remember to reward your kitchen helpers!

…  these also make great gifts not only for your own dogs, but for friends with furbabies too!

Phoebe & Cooper’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Training, Nutrition, Food, FUN

Tool(s) Used: Your kitchen and baking skills

Cost: Low

Ease of Implementation: Easy

Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Phoebe and Cooper absolutely loved these, and I will definitely be making them again soon. I recommend doubling the recipe though so you can freeze some as well to give out when going on walks, doing training, or just to spoil the dogs after a long day!

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Have you got any suggestions for any other easy dog treats I can make? 

 

Quick ‘n Easy Summertime Frozen Beefy Broth Iceys

Ah, Summer! Here in South Africa the summer temperatures can easily average between 30°C (85°F) to 35°C (90°F). In this weather it’s important that the whole family stays cool and hydrated. Many people forget to take extra precautions for their furry friends, but it’s important to remember that they don’t have the ability to just stroll over to the refrigerator for ice-cold water, or to put the air conditioner on when they start to feel the heat. Last year I got Phoebe a small pool to cool down in, but this was only one of the many ways to stop her from overheating.

One of the simplest and easiest treats to give your dog is a frozen flavoured ice-cube. These can be put in their water bowls, or just given by hand so that they can merrily lick away the flavour while keeping busy and staying cool. This can get messy, so be sure to only give these outdoors!

There are a huge number of liquid and solid foods you can freeze for your dog, but in this post I’ve done the easiest of them all – frozen beef broth. You literally let the liquid cool, pour into ice trays and pop in the freezer until the time that you’ll be using them. A word of advice though, keep the dog treat ice trays separate or clearly marked, because the last thing you’ll want is a beefy flavour in the next refreshing iced tea you make for yourself! 🙂

The broth cools down on the counter as I prepare a delicious summertime stuffed kong!

The broth cools down on the counter as I prepare a delicious summertime stuffed kong!

Phoebe & Cooper’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Heat, Hydration, Boredom

Tool(s) Used: Ice tray, broth and a freezer

Cost: Low.

Ease of Implementation: Easy

Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. These meaty ice water treats are a hit with the pooches in the heat. If you’re pressed for time, these are perfect, otherwise you can always get more creative with the ice tray fillings!

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