For many of us, dogs are part of the family. We buy them gifts throughout the year, but the holidays are a great time to get something a little extra for your pup, or for a friend or family member with a dog of their own. If you haven't already picked up a holiday gift for the dog or dog lover in your life, here are a few ideas from a trainer's perspective!
There are a lot of excellent books out there on dog behavior and training, but for me, these three in particular are essential. "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell, "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor and "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson have opened the eyes of many a dog parent and helped them to better understand how to communicate with their canine friend. They are classics in the dog world and always worth a read. A few other great options: "The Power of Positive Dog Training" by Pat Miller, "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt, "Bones Would Rain from the Sky" by Suzanne Clothier, "Click to Calm" by Emma Parsons and "When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs" by Jane Killion.
There are a lot of toys out there, and not all of them are created equal. However, there are a few brands that have a reputation for putting out toys that are more durable than others while still being a lot of fun for the dogs who enjoy tugging, retrieving and chewing on them. While toy strength can vary within brands, I've found Tuffy and Kong in particular to have some good options for a wide variety of dogs. Check out a few of my favorites here:
Food Puzzle Toys
In addition to normal toys, interative food dispensers can be an awesome way to burn off some mental energy and keep your dog occupied with dinner for much longer (and wear them out a bit in the process). There are many great and creative options for this, including something as simple as sticking some kibble in an empty water bottle, but there are also some great products out there that most dogs will have a lot of fun knocking around. The Kong Wobbler is my personal favorite for ease of use and durability, but I also love some of the more complex toys (keep in mind that ones with smaller pieces may need supervision).
Treats and Chews
There are so many great treats and chews available that I couldn't begin to list them all. Bestbullysticks.com has some fantastic options and pricing on great items such as bully sticks, beef tracheas and other wonderful treats to keep your dog occupied and chewing. I don't recommend rawhide as it tends to be more likely to be swallowed in chunks that can get lodged in a dog's throat or cause blockages during digestion, but beef knuckle and shank bones and raw bones can be a great way for dogs to get out some chewing energy and clean their teeth a bit. And while I often buy things like cheese and hot dogs for treats, when I do buy store-bought treats there are a few that are stand-bys, shown here. Not picture but also great: Pet Botanics training treats, Natural Balance dog food roll (easily cut into bite-sized pieces), and freeze-dried liver or chicken, found in multiple brands. And don't forget to include a good treat pouch to keep those treats safe on walks!
Want to upgrade to a gift that's a little fancier? The Treat and Train is an excellent remote treat dispenser for anyone who needs help rewarding their dog from a distance. And there are many new products out there that allow you to watch, talk to and even reward your dog when you're away from home. (While I haven't tried out the second option personally, it seems like a pretty exciting tool for anyone who misses their dog when they're away from home.)
There are many options out there for personalizing a gift for a dog-loving friend (or just their dog). Getting their name stitched on a collar or a funny tag could be a great addition to any dog's wardrobe. A blanket or bed featuring the dog's name or breed are probably welcome, too. But my personal favorite is a custom cartoon portrait or breed poster by artist Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings. Her art is charming and beautiful, and ranges from her cool "Dogs of the World" posters to phone cases, pins, bags and more. And you can have her customize one of her breed drawings to a particular dog for a really special present.
Check out her website here or her Etsy store here.
One of the greatest gifts you can give a friend or family member with a dog? Training! If your gift recipient is located in the Austin area, contact me to find out more about getting a gift certificate for training sessions! The gift of a well-behaved dog is the best gift of all.
This post is really just a fraction of the great gifts out there for dogs and the people who love them. Comment with some of your favorites!
Sarah is a trainer in the Austin/Dripping Springs area specializing in reactive dogs and service dogs. She lives with a bundle of doggie mischief named Percy.