By Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the Wag! Advisory Board
Since dogs are members of the family, it’s only natural that you’d want to give yours a present or two this holiday season. When it comes to gifts for dogs and pet parents, I see a lot more clutter than practical, useful stuff.
With that in mind, I want to share my advice to you this holiday season in hopes that your gifts will be well received, used, and consumed — and will bring a smile to both dog and human. Remember, we all too often think of things that seem cool to us but may prove useless to our dog. So, keep reading, and I’ll give you the advice that your dog wants you to hear!
Leashes: Nothing is as useful as a great leash to walk your dog. I want the leashes I use to be as unique as my dogs, and I want them to last a lifetime. One of my favorite type of leashes are braided leather, and Sexy Beast Dog Collars makes some amazing leashes (and collars). Check out their double braided bull hide or latigo leather leashes. Each can be as unique as your dog and is sturdy enough to last your pooch his whole life — provided you don’t let him chew it up!
Lotus Balls: One of the best inventions I’ve found for training food-motivated dogs to move, move, move is the Lotus Ball. Think of agility or obedience training. You want the dog to run ahead, but if he’s not toy-motivated, you don’t want to have to resort to tossing hot dogs into the grass. Well, Lotus Balls solve that issue. You simply tuck your dog’s favorite treat inside and get your training into gear! I’ve loved this training aid ever since my girlfriend brought it to my attention! There are different varieties including the Lily Treat Dispenser and the Fern Treat Dispenser — and all are great to get your dog in gear to train!
Dog Beds: Most dogs spend a majority of the day lounging in bed, so I like to have a bed that is comfortable and functional for my dogs. Goofy and Maya love their Luca Dog Bed (we have three). The covers are machine washable, and the bolster is Goofy’s favorite place to rest his head! They come in great colors and patterns and really last!
Raw Bones: Now, bones might not seem like that romantic of a gift to you, but your dog would prefer them over flowers and jewelry. They’re great for your dog’s health, and they’ll keep them busy. I always recommend that you think BIGGER rather than smaller, so your dog can chew the bones, but not swallow them. You can get them at your local butcher, or high-end pet stores will sell brands like Primal, which also offers goat milk, turkey necks and more. Bring home food for your dog, and he will look at you like your lover will if you bring them jewelry!
Kong: One of my all-time favorite toys to keep your dog busy after a walk or before is a Kong. I’ve used Kongs forever and love the big basic pyramid shaped ones. Nothing fancy. I stuff them with organic almond butter, cheese, honey, meats, yogurt and just about anything else that is healthy for my dogs.
Every time I go out, I leave Boz, Maya, Duane, Goofy, and Jimi with a Kong, and they love it. (That's them below, along with me in a couple of pics.) You can get them at just about any pet store, and you can’t have enough. I have an entire drawerful. Keep some in the freezer ready to go, one or two out for each dog, and again, THINK BIG. You don’t want your dog to swallow something too small, larger is always safer — and you’re not as likely to step on it and slip.
Car Crates for Travel: Traveling with our dogs is something we often take for granted, but the safety of all parties is essential. Dogs can jump out of windows or be injured or killed in an accident. I always travel with my dogs in crates, and I recommend this practice to all dog lovers.
Good car crates aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. I put them in two categories: large dogs in SUVs and small dogs in cars. For larger dogs, I like the Proline and MiM Variocage crates, which are sized to fit in the back of your SUV. They’re crash-tested and are the Cadillac of car crates. I don’t like using wire crates in cars for a variety of reasons. These crates last the life of your dog and beyond. For smaller dogs, I love the Sturdi Products soft crates. We use one for Boz. They can be taken from car to airplane and are well constructed and look great!
A Gift that Keeps on Giving: If your dog is lucky enough to have love this Christmas, think of ones that aren’t. Think of the dogs in your neighborhood shelter or those waiting to be adopted at your local rescue. What better gift than a donation to your local shelter or local rescue group that helps save dogs from the shelter. Think LOCAL, because these are the organizations that can’t afford TV ads and are doing so much to help the animals in your community. Take a drive to the shelter and bring some beds, treats, toys or your checkbook. Dogs you never meet will benefit from your kindness.
Just a note that these recommendations are my own, not Wag!’s. But given their history, I know they’re in full agreement with my last gift idea, the idea of supporting local rescue shelters across the country this holiday season — and all year long!