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      Bully sticks: What The Heck Are They? Glad You Asked...

      Bully sticks: What The Heck Are They? Glad You Asked...

      Recently, a friend texted me that he'd just learned his dog had a penis... In her mouth. Let me explain. Adam is a new dog owner, and I'd recently recommended that he buy a bully stick for Clover to chew on. Someone -- not me! -- then clued him into what a bully stick is. "She loves them!" he said to me. "But did you know each one is a little cow penis?" It is indeed. Yes, Adam, your dog loves dick. But who doesn't! If there is one thing in this world that I have a lot of, it's bully sticks. Looking for bovine schlong? I'm your girl.

      Here at School For The Dogs, we have a fridge that contains nothing but bully sticks. Kate and I hand them out like they're samples, but they're not. The peace and pleasure caused by a dog with a cow penis in his mouth is worth more than any profit we'd make if we dealt in a non dog-behavior currency. Bully sticks are all natural -- they contain just one ingredient! -- and the choking hazards are far less than with rawhide. They can keep a dog busy for a long while. I usually recommend that people give them to their dogs as often as once a day. A dog who is chewing on a bully stick is a happy dog--and is also a dog who is less likely to chew on your couch.

      Bully sticks are brown and they look kind of like a cross between a ligament and a cigar. People ask me what they are all the time, and usually, I lie. I say, "They're some kind of bull tendon." Actually, this is not a complete lie. I've always known that they're made from bull penis, but I guessed that maybe a tendon is a kind of muscle? Which is what the penis is? Or maybe it's a tendon that attaches to the penis? I don't know about these things. And could a bull penis really have such little...girth?  I suppose I just chose not to dwell on it. I mean, whatever it is, it's gross. But lots of things we eat are gross if you think too much about them. Anyway, I'm not the one eating the bull penis. The dogs are. And they don't seem to be at all bothered by the "yuck" factor. They also like eating poop.

      But  I decided to try to educate myself about what bully sticks actually are. The ones that Kate and I buy in bulk from are usually only about eight-inches long. I imagine a cow penis would be bigger than that. However, I think they've been chopped up from something longer. I've seen bully sticks that are as tall as I am... and that doesn't seem right either. Maybe they are stretched when they're dried? A penis that is longer than the female cow seems like it would be evolutionarily a bad idea! Then again, I guess most calfs are the product of artificial insemination now, so perhaps the size thing doesn't matter so much. Are we breeding cows to have long dongs for our dogs' chewing pleasure?

      To attempt to answer these questions, I did some online research about cow penises. What do they look like before they're chopped up into small pieces? Is the "bully stick" the actual penis or is it a tendon that attaches to the penis? Or is the penis a tendon? Should they have let me graduate high school without this knowledge?

      What followed was some online research done while I was sitting on a long bus ride this morning; if the guy next to me was looking at my screen, he sure was in for a treat.

      First of all, I looked up a diagram of the human male anatomy as a point of reference. After all, it is the kind of animal penis most of us know best. Below is an arrow to what I'd imagined possibly corresponded to what a bully stick might be.

      But a human male penis is not exactly like a bull penis. Thank God! It is also not a dog penis or a ram penis. offers this helpful breakdown:

      To get a bit more of a visual idea of what this thing looks like when it is still attached to its owner, here is a screenshot from the Louisiana State University Vet School.

      Of course, according to the caption, the guy at left is not a good example. And I feel a little sad that the heifer has to be restrained... But let's try to stay on topic. How long is the bull dong? I spent quite a while trying to find measurements.  I couldn't find a good figure anywhere, but the LSU Vet School site did provide some idea:

      An adequate length for a bull's penis is that it should come almost between the front legs during a full erection and extension. A bull with a too short penis will not be able to breed.
      Holy moly! Well, this is indeed about the size of some of the biggest bully sticks I've seen. In fact, they're so long that on Etsy, some people even turn them into canes.

      Want a more intimate view? Here are some students at Sam Houston State University dissecting one:


      According to, the bully sticks we buy are from South American cattle, and are hanged and cooked to dry them out.  While I've tasted other kinds of dog comestibles, I've never tried a bully stick. But there are other people who are braver than I.

      On Serious Eats, blogger Chichi Wang experimented with various ways of cooking bull penis, which, when consumed by humans, is usually called "pizzle." She writes that, when stewed, she found pizzle to be "soft and sticky with a gummy texture...the chunks tasted curiously neutral—not even bland but simply lacking any flavor whatsoever."  

       Pizzle, aka bull penises, just before blogger Chichi Wang cooked it

      In a later post about cooking with lamb testicles (these proved to be yummier), she explains that the dried pizzle we give to dogs is likely tastier than the stewed version eaten by people (mostly Asian people looking for a non-synthetic ersatz Viagra) because "it is nearly impossible [for us] to digest unless it's stewed for a long time, in which case the vascular tissue breaks down into a gluey, flaccid mess of a dish with virtually no flavor." Noted.

      Now...who's ready for lunch?! 


      9 Summer Safety Must-Haves for Dogs

      9 Summer Safety Must-Haves for Dogs

      The only thing better than having copious summertime adventures? Watching your dog have them, too. Pretty much all my favorite moments this summer have included my dog. My iPhone is brimming with photos of Amos with his head out the car window, nose hair blowing in the wind, of him swimming (I think he actually might be part fish) and even eating watermelon.

      But lots of activity also means that the chances for accidents and discomfort is a lot greater than during the 8 months a year he spends mostly on the sofa. A few key products, however, can help keep things as easy and breezy as they should be.

      On the Water: The Right Life Jacket

      Dogs have the strongly built in instinct to kick their legs when they’re in or even near water, starting practically from birth. That doesn’t mean that every dog likes pool time, of course. A good dog life jacket can help you acclimate your dog to water — it may keep a new swimmer’s initial panic at bay. If you take a dog on any kind of boat, however, you shouldn’t skip the vest. If things turn bad, your dog might not be able to swim, or might only be able to tread water for so long. I’m particularly fond of the ones that have fins.

      Life Jacket, starting at $14 

      On The Beach: Puppy Sun Screen

      dog sun block

      Sunscreen for dogs? Well, yes. Dog skin cancer is a real thing. Dogs with short white hair (or no hair) and light skin are particularly susceptible — bull terriers, Chinese crested, Dalmatians, to name a few. The good news is that human sunscreens can work on dogs, as long as you don’t use ones that contain zinc oxide. There are also plenty of sun screens made especially for dogs. It’s a good idea to check with your vet before applying any kind of SPF to your dog, since he or she will be able to advise you regarding any specific sensitivities your dog may have.

      Doggy Sunstick, $9.94

      On The Go: The Dog Bike Helmet

      If you’re going to riding your bike with your dog, get him a helmet. Admittedly, there isn’t a great selection of them out there. Someone needs to get this idea on Shark Tank, stat! The only ones that exist are on the flimsy side. But, if I had an accident and my dog suffered a head injury, I would probably want to kill myself. I figure having a modicum of protection against the unlikely event of an accident that would send him crashing to the ground head first is… better than none! Added benefit: When you are on a bike with a dog in a helmet on your back, EVERYONE pays a lot of attention to you on the street. And a major of part of accident avoidance is simply being noticed!

      Dog Helmet, $32  

      On the Street: Paw Wax & Summit Boots

      paw waxNo one really wants to have anything to do with hot pavement in the summer - least of all your dog. Come summer, my daily routes with my dog are sometimes planned to specifically avoid the darkest pavements, which heat up the most. Two good ways to save those poor puppy foot pads from frying: Mushers wax is a great sealant that can be usually be quickly and easily rubbed into your dog’s pads before a walk.


      Paw Wax, $8 for a 1oz container














      ruffwear boots



      The other option is to use dog boots. The gold standard for, uh, canine footwear, is probably RuffWear, which makes a variety of boots for different activity levels and terrain. For summer use, I’m partial to the lightest weight ones, the Summits. It can take some training for a dog to get used to wearing booties, but I’ve found that many pooches seem to respond better to wearing them in the summer than in the winter.  I think when they discover that shoes make cement-walking a much less painful experience, they’re all in.

      Summit Trex Dog Boots, $60 for a four boot set









       Remdawg the Tripawd makes sure his remaining paws stay cool. Photo by his person, Brianna Kuna 


      On The Road: The Right Car Restraint 

      Buckle up, dog. Seriously. 

      The right restraint for your dog may literally be a matter of life and death. The risks are both for us and them: unrestrained dogs can suffer death or injury due to short stops, airbags and accidents, and they also increase the risk of driver distraction. While a seatbelt may be the answer, not all have achieved the stamp of approval from The Center for Pet Safety, which is the gold standard for crash testing vehicular-related pet products.  Among those that have been approved by them: Ruffwear's Load Up Harness, which has been crash tested up to 75 lbs, passing the same frontal crash tests that ensure the effectiveness of child safety restraints. The harness attaches to existing seat belts for a universal fit, and is easy to put on and adjust.

      Load Up Harness by Ruffwear, $79

      At The Pool: The Best Fetch Toy 

      Bumi toy by west paw

      My dog must be descended from a long line of fish. Once he sees a body of water, all he wants is for someone to throw something in for him to fetch. My go-to for these occasions used to be a tennis ball. While I've heard that the fur on the balls is hard on their teeth, I haven't seen any solid evidence that backs that up. However, Amos definitely enjoys ripping them to shreds, and that can easily lead to him swallowing pieces of rubber or fuzz or both, which can't be good for him. Sticks are another good option, but sometimes they're in short supply, and we've also had the problem of them breaking and getting lodged in the roof of his mouth. Ouch! Enter the Bumi -- the ultimate floating toy. Part of the West Paw line of Zogoflex toys, this thing erases any stress involved in our water-fetch games. It is latex-free, dishwasher safe, and very difficult to chew into bits-- indeed, West Paw, a Montana-based company offers a guarantee and will replace one if it gets chewed up. It fits in the mouths of dogs of almost any size, and it also works as a tug toy, stretching out to twice its size. Water-tug adds a new element to our endless summer games of fetch. Of course, it's a fun game on land too! 

      In The Heat: Products To Cool The Pooch

      Some dogs are experts at finding a cool spot to sprawl out, be it a marble doorstep, the building foyer, or a puddle. Save them the trouble by packing a Polar Pad. These pressure-activated memory foam mats contain a special gel-infused foam that absorbs and dissipates heat. They're waterproof and stay cool for up to two hours. For extra coolness, you can pop it in the fridge or spray it with water. Honestly, you might want to get two... because your dog might not want to share his with you! 

      Polar Gel Pad, starting at $32

      Another recent discovery that has made a big difference in making sure my dog doesn't overheat when we're on the road: an ultra portable pool. Small enough to literally fit into a backpack, it provides just enough space for a small-to-medium sized to sit or lie down. Even when filled with water, it can be easily be moved around, providing the perfect spot to cool off. 

      Portable Pool, $35