At Dolittle’s we try every day to improve the relationship between dog and owner (okay, guardian, for you freaks out there. Hey, give us some cred we did list dog first).  Having been around nearly 20 years Dolittle’s has picked up some handy tips and smart advice for living harmoniously with the family dog.  One such tip that we pass out daily is MORE WATER[1].

Dolittle’s understands that dry food is often the best option for busy families with pets.  Dry food is as it was 150 years ago: convenient.  And, the good news is that today’s quality dog foods are closer to mimicking ancestral diets than ever[2], except for one glaring…uh…exception, lack of water. A quick internet search will give you a rule of thumb for canine daily water consumption: 1 ounce for 1 pound of body weight.[3]  Sure your dog may drink a lot, but we’d like to make the case for adding some of their daily water into their daily food.

1. Dog foods contain salt.  Even the great all-natural foods found on Dolittle’s shelves contain some amount of salt.  Salt dehydrates the system and we want to hydrate it.

2. Stomach capacity. An average dog, say 50lb can have a stomach capacity of 24ounces.  Now one, we never want to push the stomach to capacity, and two, we certainly don’t want to do it with food. Adding water to the food allows us to trick the stomach into feeling full with far less food.

3. Dolittle’s Practical Guide to the Canine Universe– Double Patented Sponge Theory.  We believe that the dog’s system has a finite amount of water in it.  Roughly 70% of their weight. Next we propose that dry food, with it’s porous construction and salt content,  acts like a dry sponge on that system. So each time you feed dry food you actually deplete the system of valuable water.

Now you’re saying: “But my dog drinks a TON of water.”  Well one, that’s not true, a ton is an awful lot; 35,274 ounces roughly.  And two, are you sure?  By the above rule of thumb a 64 pound dog should be drinking 64 ounces a day, or 8 cups.  The average dog bowl is around 24 ounces so you better be filling that thing up at least two and a half times a day.

But enough about you, back to our sponge theory.  Let’s do some experimenting!

Investigating the Affects of Dry Food on a Wet System
Gather these materials: A measuring cup, a dry sponge (the old fashioned kind), and some water.

Part I
1.  Cut the sponge so that it fits nicely into the bottom of the measuring cup.
2. Into the empty measuring cup add 3/4 cup of water.
3. Drop the sponge in.
4. Wait 10 minutes, then remove the sponge. Save saturated sponge for Part II.
5. Observe the new water level.

Part II
1. Fill the measuring cup back up to 3/4 cup.
2. Drop the saturated sponge in.
3. Wait 10 minutes, then remove the sponge.
4. Observe the new water level.

So kids, what have we learned from this little experiment? Dry sponges don’t make good food, wait no, dry dog food extracts moisture.  Granted the amount of water lost can be debated, but hopefully we can all agree that there is a loss.  We believe losing any water is not good for the system, especially over a prolonged period of time.

In conclusion we offer that adding water to your dog’s dry food (and, hey, cats love it too!) will offer a few dietary benefits:
1. salt dilution. Easy enough, If you turn one cup of food into 2 cups fed (with water) you’ve diluted the salt.
2. stomach capacity trickery.  Take a look at the two middle pictures above.  The dog eating dry food (top row) would experience little change in capacity.  The dog eating food with water (bottom row) would feel like more food is in the stomach.
3. increased water consumption.  Say your 64lb dog needs 64 ounces of water. If you add water 1 to 1 to the feeding amount, let’s say 4 cups (2 cups twice a day), in two meals you’ve added 32oz of water. Half of their daily need.

MYTHBUSTER: We hear a few of you saying: “I feed dry food to keep my dog’s teeth clean.” This is a MYTH.  Don’t believe us? Try this experiment at home: Eat a bowl of cereal without milk.  How do your teeth feel? Now eat a bowl with milk.  Any cleaner? Food does not clean teeth (any more than it helps us lose weight (another blog)).  Brushing cleans teeth.  Ever had a dentist say: “you could brush, or just eat a bag of pretzels now and then. That should do it.” By the way, when you perform this experiment only move your jaw up and down, not sideways, that will more closely mimic your dog.

One benefit to adding water we did not go over (because we have a whole other blog on that) is that it greatly reduces flatulence. The dog’s not yours. Check it out here! Shameless cross promotion.

As always we welcome your feedback. Chow!

1We would like to emphasize that this is a PRACTICAL guide NOT a medical guide.  Changes to your dogs health and diet should always be between you and your dog’s professional medical care giver.  At best we hope our practical guide will give you practical questions to ask and/or food for thought.
2 BJones, Feeding Your Dog – Could You Be Feeding Your Dog The Wrong Things? 

3 Why Your Dog Is Always Thirsty 


Two Dogs Diverged

October 8, 2010

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  Paisley sat below an anxious acrobatic squirrel, one who timed his aerial leap a second too late and fell to earth.  Except he didn’t make it to the earth, instead he landed squarely into Paisley’s open mouth.

To appreciate the importance of this event let me rewind a bit to introduce Dixie, Paisley’s squirrel hunting mentor. Dixie had spent years chasing squirrels from our suburban yard.  She was fast and efficient.  She’d stay low like a cat on the prowl watching the twitchy little creature dig his hole.  The squirrel’s head would pop up and quickly scan, Dixie would drop and freeze.  Then at just the right moment Dixie would lunge.  Her pursuits could cover a fair distance as the neighbors did not have fences.  It was the land of free range squirrels.  As fast as she was she never caught a squirrel, but she never gave up.

Years later we moved to downtown Charleston.  Our house was fenced in on a smaller property, but the trees were active with squirrels.  Soon after moving we brought home Paisley.  She would sit on the porch keenly watching Dixie’s tactics and when Dixie gave pursuit Paisley would bark her support.

For greater exercise we would visit the local parks.  One of our favorites was White Point Gardens.  The park is full of oak trees and alive with squirrels, though even I could tell something was different about these squirrels.  They were bigger than what Dixie had chased before.  Not only were they bigger, I’m sure Dixie and I shared this thought at the same moment, they were slower.  She immediately went into her crouched prowl at the sight of tubby tree rats.  I knew the signal Dixie was looking for and as soon as he dropped his head down Dixie bolted.  The squirrel had no idea.  He made a dash for the nearest tree but Dixie cut him off.  So he zigzagged toward another. And then it happened.  Dixie dropped down and closed her jaws around the prey at the same time she lost her balance on a tree root.  In a second she was rolling across the ground with grey fur flying from her mouth.  As she regained her footing she looked around for the squirrel, but he was already half way up the nearest tree.

Paisley continued to carry Dixie’s torch, scanning the trees and preparing herself at every opportunity to be in the right place at the right time.  What Paisley lacked in speed and agility she made up for with patience.  So we return to the accidental squirrel falling right into Paisley’s open mouth, victory of a dream nearly forgotten.  For all the years of preparation it was over in a moment.  Paisley was not prepared for the squirrel to squirm and so, like Dixie, she quickly dropped it.   They were two dogs sharing a passion for pursuit, and though their methods diverged the destination remained the same.

CEO of Buy N' Large

photo by Flickr user Matt512

Before opening the doors to Dolittle’s in 1999 I dug deep into pet foods. One of the food companies was Natura Pet, a company committed to independent retailers. This ideology suited me well, and so I added them to the line up. Dolittle’s would be the first pet store in Charleston to offer Natura Pet Foods: California Natural and Innova.

In addition to Natura Pet, Dolittle’s opened its doors with Iams. Very soon after opening there was the announcement that Proctor & Gamble was purchasing Iams. Being a business newbie I acted rashly and tossed Iams out the back door. No corporately owned dog food, here thank you very much. My actions did not play well with some customers and the store lost them as food customers. Fortunately a good many stuck with Dolittle’s and made a switch. A year later Iams downgraded the quality of their foods and entered the vast grocery market (small vindication for my actions). Dolittle’s stayed the course with great new foods and established itself as Charleston’s source for healthy, all natural pet foods.

Flash forward 11 years and Natura Pet is being purchased by Proctor and Gamble. Again the store is faced with a difficult decision. Maybe I’m jaded now, maybe I’m more business minded but I don’t feel the need to react as I did with Iams. Our nation is so full of corporate ownership. Tom’s All Natural toothpaste is a subsidiary of Colgate Palmolive ref 1, and Kashi cereal is a subsidiary of Kellogg’s ref 2. How can we get away from corporations? The fact is among the three Dolittle’s stores Natura Pet makes up 50% of food sales I cannot just kick that out the door. However this corporate dog has bitten me before.

So, I have a cautious solution (one which I would love to see Natura Pet commit to as well). Dolittle’s will begin a Bad in the Bowl program. A list will be created that contains what Dolittle’s considers to be harmful or questionable ingredients. In other words, ingredients that are “Bad in the Bowl.” With corporate giants into everything from granola bars to yogurt it makes sense to watch the integrity of the ingredients. If Natura Pet, or any other food we offer, uses any of the ingredients on our “Bad in the Bowl” list then it will be phased out. If a customer finds an ingredient from the list first, then Dolittle’s will reward them with a $50 gift certificate to the store.

For customers who wish to switch, our friendly staff is ready to offer great alternatives (there are many). If you wish to stay with Natura as long as they uphold their current integrity, then Dolittle’s is supportive of that too. In the end it’s all about your wonderful, healthy dogs and cats. As long as they thrive on quality foods like Innova they should have the opportunity to eat it.

Your comments are welcome.

Ric Sommons
Owner – Dolittles

ref 1:
ref 2:

The Devil’s Accessory

April 27, 2010

It was a crisp fall day in 2001.  There were dogs o’ plenty in the store.  They were celebrating our 3rd annual Howl-o-ween party.  A good time was had by all until the scene went macabre.  Seems a couple of dogs were in disagreement over who looked more ridiculous in their “jail bait” costume.  Each dog’s owner had them on retractable leashes when the fight broke out.  As the gnashing and barking escalated the owners arms worked furiously in windmill motions.  They looked like seasoned fishermen trying to reel in the biggest catch of their lives.  Others in the store began to panic.  Children started to cry.  I thought I might be able to reduce the chaos by stepping in.  I grabbed one leash just as the other dog circled around.  That leash hit my wrist and the other dog lunged.  That’s when I heard a “pop.”

The rest of the day is a bit blurry.   I remember blood.  Lots and lots of blood.  People fainting too.  Someone was chasing a dog out the back door.  I was happy the barking had settled down, though I couldn’t imagine where all the blood was coming from.  The guy was returning from the back door and in his hand was a pulpy mess.  His dog kept jumping up trying get at the carnage.  He was walking toward me. “Gee, buddy. I’m really sorry about that. Here you go.” he said as he held out the meatloaf he was carrying.  I went to accept it.  That’s when I realized it was my HAND he was handing me!

Did you ever really just dislike something and were unable to put you finger on why? I had an inkling of dislike for retractable leashes before that fateful day.  After losing my hand, well, then I REALLY disliked them.  Since my “accident” I have noticed a small ground swell of similar sentiment.  Turns out a lot of trainers don’t like the things either. They use words like “hate,” “worthless,” and “repugnant.”  Recently Consumer Reports and USA Today both spoke out about the dangers of these products.  Products which NOW carry warnings about loss of limb or eyeball.  Thanks guys.  Don’t get me wrong I love my bionic hand (Luke Skywalker’s got nothing on me) but if I could have my flesh and blood hand back, I’d take it.

What are we thinking?! These leashes carry WARNINGS and, they break! What if the shoes you bought warned you that you might lose a toe? Or, that you might not be able to come to a full stop when wearing them?  Would you buy them? (Okay, ladies, maybe shoes are a bad example.  But stay with me.)

People I talk to say they like these implements of dismemberment because it gives their dog “freedom.” I say,  a leash is a leash is a leash.  If it’s 2 feet or 30 feet it is not freedom.  Ultimately you still want to control your dog on a walk or in public.  By allowing them to wander 15 to 20 feet (150 in dog feet) away you are reducing your control.  They become unaware of when it’s okay to be by your side or off on thier own.  Accidents happen in seconds, how long will it take you to reel your dog back 20 feet?

I have become fond of my remaining body parts, so for me I’ll use a standard, non-warning carrying, unlikely to break, leash.  If I see a finger or a hand on the side of the road, I’ll know someone else chose otherwise.

TRUE: I once had a customer return a toy because their dog had pulled out a little bit of stuffing.  I told her she was welcome to return the toy any time, but she really should take it back to her dog because the dog was having fun with it.  The lady came back two years later!  She said – I want you to know I was surprised by what you asked me to do, but I gave the toy back to my dog and it has been her favorite ever since.

“I’m looking for something indestructible for my dog.”  If I have heard that once, I have heard it a thousand times.  There are currently 357 responses that run through my head.  The response I pose today is “Why?”

Before I talk about toys, let me talk about dogs.  Every dog is different and every one of them plays in a different way.  But one thing they have in common is that they really enjoy a good “kill.” Okay, I said it, it’s out there.  Your sweet Cupcake is a killer.  Be it a squirrel, mouse, mole or bird the result is the same – death.  Maybe there is a dog out there that has a great time chasing a squirrel, then stops, thanks the squirrel for a good romp and goes on about his day.  The rest, well, they just aren’t satisfied until the squeaking stops.

Dogs need toys that provide entertainment.  If you ever find the elusive indestructible toy, there is a high probability that your dog will be absolutely bored solid by it.  She wants a toy that mimics play, one that gives as much as it gets.  Here’s my take on dog toys:  they mimic woodland creatures.  Dog toys are fuzzy, they are often small and roundish, they have voices (i.e. squeaks), and they can move very quickly (either by you throwing it or the dog thrashing it).  So it really should come as no surprise that your dog finds joy in successfully gutting it, destroying the squeak and tossing the remains all over the house.  Perhaps even taking a celebratory roll on the carcass.  This is how your dog is entertained.

Here’s a final thought: for most us movies are entertainment.  Ticket $10, popcorn $5, drink $3, we’ll ignore candy and the cost of a babysitter, that’s $18 for 2 hours of entertainment.  Roughly $.15 cents a minute.  So think of these numbers the next time you are looking for a dog toy.  Start to finish, will the toy meet or exceed a $.15 cents a minute value?  A $9.00 toy only needs to provide 1 hour of happiness, anything longer and you are doing better than a trip to the movies.

Remember – destruction is irrelevant, have fun.

Ric Sommons
Owner – Dolittle’s

NOTE: No woodland creatures were harmed in the writing of this blog. Thank you.

Doggy Farts

March 3, 2010

What better way to begin blogging than to talk about farts?  That’s the classy guy I am.  So, at Dolittle’s we talk about everything in your pet’s life.  Eating habits, the toys they chew, and yes potty habits.  Few things make me smile more than having a dear Charleston lady ask for something to reduce Snookum’s flatus (you, know: g-a-s).  Dogs level the playing field.  Adorn them in Coach leather, feed them pate, hire a doggy assistant, in the end the little guys are going to walk right into the middle of your social event and lay out a paint peeling church creeper.

Here’s what I know about farts.  Farts (are you ready?) come from air trapped in the digestive system.  Air that you hope gets belched out (Hey! There’s another blog topic) or absorbed into the system.  Anything left moves through the intestinal tract picking up an aromatic bouquet that will be released as you and your girlfriend sit down to dinner.  Sure, it’s the dog.

You want to stop Bud’s air biscuits?  You could try hanging an air freshener from his tail.  Or maybe those fancy charcoal underpants, you know the ones.  Here’s what we tell customers – water.  We suggest to everyone that they add water to their dog’s dry food.  Just as you would add milk to cereal.  You might be making the same questioning face as our customers right now.  But here’s why it works, first water displaces any air pockets in your dogs food.  Less air = less gas.  Secondly, and more importantly, your dog now has to lap up a large portion of his dinner rather than insanely gulping in down.  Gulping = air consumption. Lastly, many quality foods (like those sold at Dolittle’s, this is a business related blog after all) contain digestive enzymes and water served in the food will begin the activation of these enzymes.  It’s the enzymes that aid in the digestion process, by providing good intestinal bacteria.  The bacteria breaks down food and reduces gas.

There are a couple of other ways to reduce gas.  You could try any of several gas control pills or supplements.  These typically work by providing friendly bacteria to the digestive system.  Again, bacteria that works to increase digestion an reduce oxygen.  Just remember there are lots of dry food choices out there that contain these digestive enzymes.

Another simple suggestion is to offer more frequent smaller meals.  Consider dividing a single meal into two quick feedings.  Give your dog enough time to lick his lips, sit and maybe even burp.  Like my father-in-law says: better to burp and taste it… you get the idea.  

So there’s what I know on farting – I hope it helps.  Check back on more blogs as I talk about, diarrhea, coprophagia (look it up) and all those great and wonderful things our pets do.  Remember, Dolittle’s is here to help.  We’ve been improving the relationship between you and your pet since 1994.

Ric Sommons
Owner – Dolittle’s