Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Vizsla Gear II: The Active Family Dog

Last year I did a "Vizsla Gear" post including a bunch of stuff we've found useful for life with the active dog. I'm adding a few things here for those of you who may be interested in stuff that has come in handy for the "active family dog".

Baby gear is a WHOLE other world...if you've recently had kids or are pregnant, chances are you are all too familiar with recommendations (solicited and otherwise) on all the STUFF you just have to have. This isn't that. But, I am sharing a few things that we have found particularly useful.
The Running Stroller
Model: Bob Revolution SE
Pros: It's sturdy, it's well made, and handles well, you can use it for running in addition to walks and getting around, and it absorbs bumps in the road better than many other strollers (such as a snap 'n go stroller). It's comfortable to push. It's awesome.

Cons: It's BIG. We have a small car and trying to fit Captain, the carseat, and the Bob, and us in the car just doesn't happen. It's also a little bulky for trying to get around stores and squeezing through crowded sidewalks. And the bottom storage part is pretty small- definitely not big enough to throw in a lot of groceries. And, it's expensive. On top of that, the handlebar console is pretty much a necessity that you have to add on (although only about $20 more, but still).

Other notes
The Bob is pretty easy to fold up, but we don't do it much. Yes, it weighs about 20+ lbs, which looking at the specs I thought was a lot, but unless you are running up steep hills, it's really not bad. As a parent, you get used to lugging around at least 20lbs no prob.

You will probably read that you must have a front fixed wheel if you are running with your little one. Personally, I couldn't stand having the front wheel fixed- maneuverability was ridiculously bad. So no, I don't think the Ironman version of the stroller is worth it, especially if you want to use the stroller for anything other than running. The Revolution edition seems to be the best of both worlds- you can fix the front wheel if you feel you must, or leave it unlocked for getting around more easily. One thing you definitely do need, however, if running with the little one, is the infant car seat attachment. Especially for even moderately bumpy sidewalks, it's important to keep your nugget in the car seat (docs recommend not running with them til they have proper head support and can sit- so around 4-6 months, and running with the carseat attachment until at least 6-9 months).

No, I don't think you need to be a runner to get your money's worth out of this stroller. Because of its durability and build, it would also do well on (reasonable) trails, or just for those who want a really sturdy stroller (especially if your pup tends to pull you around- that won't be as much of an issue with a stroller like the Bob).

Our experience: When my friends recommended we get one as soon as I told them I was pregnant (knowing I'm a runner), my husband and I just shook our heads. Having more than one stroller, and one that expensive, seemed like something for only the wealthy suburban crew with large garages. I figured I'd just get out for runs on my own, because who wants to feel like they are pushing around a shopping cart on a run? Well, our opinions quickly changed- you come to realize how hard it is to get time for yourself, and when little ones can nap in strollers, you might as well get your exercise in then too. We held out for as long as we could, searching Craiglist and coupon sites for a deal. Finally we bit the bullet and ordered one with a discount through REI. And yes, it is worth every penny. Every. Frickin. Penny.

I either have the hands-free leash (see below) on when I'm running with Captain and pushing nugget in the Bob, or else have him off-leash. He stays close by the stroller, but keeps a cautious arms-length distance from it too.

Baby Carrier
Model: Baby Bjorne Miracle
Pros: Excellent back support. At least from our perspective, fits moms and dads well. Baby can face in or out and no infant insert is needed. I have taken at least hour long walks in this an never had any discomfort.

Cons: The main con I see is there is no storage pocket- I always thought this would be handy to have.
Another possible con is that it could get a little hot in very warm weather, although I haven't had that issue. It is on the pricey side (but again, well worth it in my opinion).

Our experience: My little nugget cried for at least a few hours a day, most days, from months 2-4. If I didn't have a good, comfortable baby carrier, I would have literally lost my mind. Captain and I would go out on long walks with her, listening to music, and it was the only thing that would get her to stop crying. I spent HOURS walking around in the Bjorne, up and down hills, and always felt fine (well, tired, but my back and shoulders never felt sore). Other considerations are whether you want to have the option to face your baby in or out (can do either in the Bjorne), how hot a climate you live in (Ergo may be a bit cooler, and has a cool sun cover built in), and how big your baby is (there are slightly different weight limits on different carriers).

Model: Ruff Wear's Flat Out Leash
I've already sung the praises of Ruff Wear's hands-free leash (see previous gear post, and giveaway post). I consider it a must-have if you are a runner, but it is also very handy (ar ar) with a little one. My husband likes to snap it around his waist while he's walking Captain, pushing the stroller, and sipping a coffee ...another must with a little one ;) And of course I use it on all runs with Captain. Yes, they can still pull you a bit, so I tend to let him off leash whenever possible if I'm also pushing the stroller (he is incredibly good under voice command). We have gone through a few of these, since the leash itself isn't super thick and we've allowed Captain to "walk himself" pretty often (he carries his leash in his mouth... and ok sometimes he chews on it.) But it's a reasonably priced leash, easily snaps on and off and adjusts around the waist, and Ruff Wear makes great active dog products.

Bike Attachment
*Obviously, this isn't a necessity for all families. We just needed one because we share one car but we each have jobs! See notes below.

Model: Bike Tow Leash
Pros: Very, very sturdy. According to my husband, who did extensive research on different models, this is the best one because it attaches to the back axel of the bike. So, when a 65lb dog sees a squirrel, for example, your bike won't go veering off if your pup tries to lunge. In addition to allowing for give, it is easily installed, attaching to bike when in use and hooks up/stores nicely when not in use. The arm of the attachment keeps the pup and a good distance from the bike and allows them to position themselves anywhere along side you.
Cons: Price. There are cheaper options out there.

Our experience: We needed a commuting option for my husband to take Captain to work with him, since I had started a new job and needed our (one) car to get there. My husband did a LOT of research on different brands and options for dog leash bike attachments before settling on this one. The main concern with other brands was breaking. We didn't want to take a risk with anything going wrong, so we went with the Bike Tow Leash, and no complaints yet. They bike to work together almost every day. I was a little worried about Captain not liking this at first, but was really impressed by how quickly Captain picked it up!

Another important note if you are biking frequently with your dog- make sure you have a harness of some kind that will not rub them and create sores. Captain got some raw skin after just the first 2 days of biking because we didn't realize his harness was rubbing him. Instead, look for a padded harness or create your own padding by using fleece or another protective barrier. I also wouldn't recommend very very long rides- of course every dog is different, but I would worry about over-stressing joints, paw pads, heat fatigue, etc. My husband's commute is just under 2 miles each way, and he goes slowly for Captain.

Not active dog gear ;)
In short, there's a lot of gear that comes along with having a baby. Needs will differ from family to family of course, but I wanted to share our favorite "active family" gear!

PS- pardon typos or lack of clarity, we're working on sleep deprivation here and all posts after December 2013 should be considered small miracles.

PPS- all the recs here are 100% my own and not endorsed by the companies.

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