Author Archives: charlie

Review of the SafeStix

I’m sure 99.9% of the time sticks are perfectly safe, they don’t get caught in dog’s throats, splinter in guts or tear up mouths. But I still worry when I throw a stick or when Stig starts eating a tree branch and I notice flecks of blood. And then when he wants to pull that tree into the car to go home with him I have to draw the line.

So when I saw a safestix recommended I thought I would give it a go. This way I can have a safe stick-like toy for Stig, that I don’t mind putting in the car. The only concern – will Stig like it?!

In a bout of retail therapy and pushing aside the nagging feeling that I already spend far too much on the dog, I ordered a safestix. After opening it I was pleased with the overall build quality, although the appearance is slightly off-putting!

It stands up to a bit of chewing, a certain amount of rough tug games and lots of trips through the air. Although Stig was not particularly interested in it to begin with after a game of tug and a trip to the park with it he is much more interested now. For Stig it is definitely an interactive toy and needs an attached human. But with a little persuasion we now have a new fun toy for walks and training rewards and I don’t have to worry about sticks any longer :]


  • Brightly coloured so you spot it in the grass
  • Well made
  • Easy to wash the slobber and mud off
  • Easy to fling for the dog to chase


  • It takes a lot of dedication to pick it up we covered in dog slober and grass cuttings for another throw!
  • It doesn’t soften the blow when your dog runs into you with a stick hanging out the side of its mouth!

Scent Training The Stig

As part of my course in Canine Behaviour and Training, Stig is being taught to search and indicate the presence of a particular scent.

So where did I start? Well choosing a scent was a good start.  Something seemingly useful and fairly strong smelling to make sure the search isn’t unnecessarily difficult. I chose zippo fluid originally, but dogs are just as good at finding gun oil, money, blood or drug scents.

So starting with enthusiasm I tried to teach Stig that the smell of zippo fluid on a sterile cloth means he must lie down. Trouble is zippo fluid does not smell very nice to dogs, so Stig was very reluctant to smell it! So the unintentional result is that when Stig smells the cloth , he backs away and hits it with a paw, then lies down.

At least he is lying down! Once this is established and  after several training sessions, I moved on to hiding the scent in obvious places. The trouble is Stig isn’t very fast at finding it and after a couple of repetitions the scent fades as the fluid evaporates.

I needed a longer lasting, but vaguely similar scent. So I changed to firelighters and went back to the beginning. There must be something similar in the smell of accelerants because Stig picked up the paw and lie down very fast.

Now he just has to find it!

Stigs new home!

Stig at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

Stig at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

Stig, a two-ish year old Staffie cross joined our household in July after approximately a year in Bath Cats and Dogs home. Stig is fairly large for a staffie, the other half of his parentage is still a mystery.

Does he have traditional staffie cahracterisitics? – Yes some, he is very loyal, he chases small furry things, he loves people and he does not love other dogs! I had been walking him every week day for about 3 months and he was a very popular dog to staff and visitors! He formed very strong bonds with some of the staff there and had had several previous walkers. And I have to say they did a good job of keeping him sane(ish)!

When I collected him I walked him all the way back to our flat to drain off his energy before he came home. In the dogs home he always seemed very excited, exhibiting behaviours like chewing on the lead jumping along on walks, rolling on the ground and not getting up and excited chewing. Once at home he was calmer and alittle uncertain of himself.

The training he had received in the dogs home left him with a good sit, lie down, speak and an ok stay/wait. He was also clicker trained and didn’t pull too much on the lead.

Continuing life in the Biorb

Update : After some rather odd spam complaining about the overcrowding of my tank (of 9 tetras) and how I should upgrade to a 10 gallon tank, I should say the tank is 16 gallons, and as I already said – I knew the limitations of the tank before I bought it and was never planning to put that many fish in it. So get off your high horse!

Life continues in the Bioorb! After some unsettling events, which i will get to in a minute, the Bioorb 60 Life is settled into a happy lifestyle. The stock is at the moment, the 3 original black neons, 3 penguin tetras, 3 zebra danio and 3 amano shrimp. I realise that the recommended stocking for these species is 6 or more in each group, and I was planning to up the levels in each species but we will have to wait and see.

So far they seem to be working well together, the zebras and are boisterous and chase each other and the penguins around. At first I was worried about one of the penguins being aggressive but the zebras seem to have since balanced out. I don’t know if it is because it is a relatively small tank but the groups of three seem to work very well, the neons aren’t nervous and none of the fish seem to be skittish at all.

Now to the unsettling events. I added three guppies to the tank, trying to add a little colour to the tank. At first, for a day or so they all seemed fine, then one died unexpectedly, with no symptoms. So I took it out and kept a close eye of all the fish. A couple of days after on of the 2 remaining guppies developed symptoms of bloat. That is swollen body, sticking up scales and general lethargy, even though he was swimming ok. So I took him out and put him in a quarantine tank.

I know moving him was not the best for him because of the trauma of a move. But I tried to match the water conditions but adding some from the old tank, I added medication for bloat but from what I read on the web there isn’t much hope once symptoms appear. The upshot is he died. And then in another couple of days the other guppy displayed similar symptoms and died as well.

Throughout this episode I checked the water levels, temperature, food and is the fish were being attacked. Everything was fine and only the guppies got sick. I medicated the rest of the tank with a natural aloe vera and tea tree combination and all the remaining fish (and shrimps are fine).

So any ideas what happened? Were they sick when they arrived? Was it the stress of moving tanks? Im fairly sure the water is fine, the shrimp are particularly sensitive so I would expect them to have been affected. The water here is particularly hard but the pH was fine. Any suggestions, anyone?

Penguin Tetras

The week after the first three black neons were introduced I added the penguin tetra. Tetra are happiest when kept in groups, so I thought the penguins would add some company until I get some new black neons.

These are slightly larger than the neons, and they have a black stripe which continues onto the lower tail fin. However, it seems I am unintentionally going for a black and white theme for the tank! I plan to make sure the next fish I get have some more colour 🙂

Next set of denizens enter the biorb

Next set of denizens enter the biorb

The new penguins were more agressive to begin with and they settled in much more quickly and were chasing each other, and the neons, round the tank within 10 minutes. Overall they have livened up the tank and all the fish seem more confident.

I also added the shrimp (“Scampo”) a Japonica shrimp, who is now my favourite denizen. It sits behind the heater at the top of the tank disturbed when it hides. I thought I didn’t include many places to hide in the tank but I have ‘lost’ Scampo several times!

Scampo has already shed a skin, and his colour gradually returned over the course of a few days.

Scampo the Japonica shrimp

Scampo the Japonica shrimp

Life in a biorb!

This blog post is dedicated to life in my Biorb.

After a bit of reading around I discover that Bioorbs are not ideal tanks. Fair enough, they are expensive i agree, but they do look stunning. Also, they aren’t huge tanks – but then I don’t have a large flat so I can’t accommodate a large tank anyway.  They are portrait style – which looks cool but doesn’t leave much swimming room. Opinion seems to divided on the filtration system but it works, so it’s ok by me. Putting aside my reservations about the tank, I went out (on the internet) and exchanged hard earned cash (plastic) for a black Biorb Life 60.

I realise that in opting for the best looking tank on the market, I will have to limit the number and type of fish I can keep, I don’t want to over crowd the tank. But I’m ok with this, I don’t want just a fish tank. I want an aquarium that looks great and fits it well as a piece of furniture in my home.

I am a little disappointed that I cant have a dwarf aquatic frog as the tank is too tall, but hey in a couple of years I can upgrade the tank, or maybe reef-one will have produced a great looking and practical tank.

Tank Setup

I set up the tank, washed the filter and ceramic media, put it all together and added water. Then I added the stress zyme and stress coat to get rid of the chlorine and start the bacteria growth. I was worried that the sachets wouldnt be large enough for the 60 litre tank but the reef one support said it would do the job ok. Although the guide says you can add fish after 48 hours I left it 2 weeks to make sure it was properly cycled.

The heater provided in the tropical conversion pack is not quite powerful enough for my tank (it is alas in a draft position), so I have ordered a 100W heater to be sure the temperature stays constant without the heater going flat out all the time trying to reach 30 degrees.

So after two weeks my first fish arrived! 3 black neon tetra. I know they dont like to be in shoals of less than 6 but I wanted to introduce them gradually so next week I’m planning to get three more.

Here is a photo of Killer, Psycho and Ripper in acclimatising to their new home 🙂

Life in a Biorb

Life in a Biorb