Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Dog's Christmas

Dog’s Christmas

Author, Jan Casey

According to the
American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 44.8% of households in the U.S.
owned a dog in 2006. From their survey, that equates to approximately 73.9
million dogs. They report “The overall majority of pet owners buy their pet a
gift, usually for Christmas or often for no occasion at all, spending an
average of almost $20.00 per pet gift.” Now that you see you are in good
company, what will you buy for your dog?

An article sent to me by
Bob McMillan of the Herald-Citizen prompted the topic for this column. The AP
wire service published a story about the latest offerings for the doggie
in-crowd. Included were puppooses (crocheted slings in which to carry your dog
across your chest), non-alcoholic dog beer, and wigs for dogs. Wigs for dogs?
As if they didn’t already leave enough hair behind. Rather than send you on a
search for these people-pleasing as opposed to dog- pleasing gifts, I have some
suggestions to make.

Most dogs like toys.
There are the usual toys – balls, stuffed plush animals, Frisbees, to name a
few. Better than those, look at toys that not only exercise the body, but also
the canine mind. Buster cubes, Kongs which can be stuffed with food, and treat
dispensing balls are great. For owners and dogs who know the rules of tugging
(a must before you play tug), a new tuggy toy or combination tug/leash is
great. For dogs that are well-socialized with both people and other dogs, a
gift of doggie day care would be wonderful. How about a sandbox for digging?

Food gifts are also high
on the list as dog gift favorites. Due to recent and ongoing scares within the
pet food industry, my first suggestion is to get online and research some
homemade doggie treats. There is such a wide variety of treats available with
just about every conceivable ingredient. Of course, if you think the smell of
baking liver or tuna might not add much to the wonderful smells of Christmas in
your house, check out some of the wholesome treats available through some of
the local retailers here. A few retailers subscribe to the Whole Dog Journal
which tracks the quality of pet foods and stock only the best suggested foods.
As the Journal does not accept advertisements, it can report in a completely
unbiased way.

While I doubt I would
find equipment on your dog’s wish list, it is something many folks give to
their pets at Christmas. You could make your selection more appealing to your
pet if you replace any aversive equipment (choke collars, prong collars, shock
collars) with more dog friendly equipment. There are wonderful new anti-pull
harnesses out there such as the Easy Walk and Sensi if you have a dedicated
puller. Many of the smaller dogs in my classes have arrived sporting very
flashy material harnesses, a great alternative to collars that can easily
damage tender throats and tracheas.

Of all my
recommendations, I most strongly suggest you give your dog the gift of more
time, not just during the holidays, but all year long. Dogs are social
creatures who want to be a part of the family. Buy yourself a book on games to
play with your dog. Enroll in a class with your dog – take something fun like
agility, flyball, or Rally-O. If your dog is lacking manners, take a basic
manners class that emphasizes building your relationship with your dog as well
as learning behaviors which make them more welcome companions. Commit to
walking a little more with your dog. It will do you both good. When the weather
is nasty, have some good inside games. Hide the dog’s toys. Make it easy at
first by showing the dog where you are hiding the toy, then ask him to find it.
As the dog gets good at this, make it harder. There is a game called 100 things
to do with a box. Set out an ordinary cardboard box and shape your dog into doing
different things with that box. Teach your old (or new) dog some tricks.
Nothing makes clients more tickled than to see their pups learning to hit the
Staples Easy button for a treat or learning a simple shake hands. There are
plenty of books available on trick training.

Christmas is a season
for giving. If you have the available funds, please remember the animal
organizations in the area that need donations – both money and goods – for the
many animals that will not be a part of someone’s Christmas celebration at
home. If you don’t have a dog or any other pet with which to share your life,
give yourself one of the best gifts ever – adopt a pet in need of a home.
You’ll get more back than you can ever imagine.

Jan Casey is a
reward-based trainer in Florida
at Courteous Canine, Inc.
and owner of Smiles and Wags Pet Services Mrs.
Casey is a member of the Association of Animal
Behavior Professionals.
Casey is a columnist for the Cookeville,
Herald-Citizen Pet
and Kid's Korner .
This column was originally written for the Herald-Citizen

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