Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gifts for Dogs From the People who Love Them

28 Christmas Gifts for Dogs From the People Who Love Them
Author, Jan Casey
Today is November 22nd. And yes, Thanksgiving is still a few days away but chances are you have put some thought into what to get for the one who gives you unconditional love, who greets you at the door with enthusiasm that makes Titans fans look subdued, who loves nothing more than to be with you. That special someone is, of course, your dog! According to the American Pet Association, over 31,000,000 owners buy Christmas gifts for their dogs, so that should help you feel a little more comfortable about celebrating the holiday with a gift for your furry friend.
So what would Spot like this year? There is no shortage of dog gifts on the market and prices range from nearly free to thousands of dollars. The best gifts are perhaps those which require some interaction between you and the dog since dogs are social beings who need companionship to remain mentally healthy. I took a look at several items that might be of interest – those that provide exercise for the dog and a chance for you to get outside and enjoy the scenery at the same time. As usual, there are warnings: you must research the proper use of this equipment, your dog should be in good physical shape, and children should always be supervised when interacting with the dog. Dogs, of course, should have basic skills including sit, stay, and down.
There are quite a few dog harness activities. Though I have seen few here in Tennessee, perhaps it’s time to begin to enjoy some of these sports here. Depending on the size of your dog, carting can involve pulling loads of materials to carting a person. A DVD available from www.Dogwise.com by Beth Ostrander titled Introduction to Canine Carting would be a good place to start. Once you understand the mechanics, carts and harnesses are available from a number of merchants such as American Cart and Harness (www.k9carting.com) or Dogworks (www.dogworks.com). A similar concept that involves human and dog teamwork and which requires a bit more exercise on the human’s part is a dog powered scooter found at www.dogpoweredscooter.com. The creator of this scooter has also created a dog powered trike and is currently working on a dog powered skateboard as well! As someone who has tried bicycling with her dog on a leash (and come crashing down - not a pretty sight), I would be much more inclined to try some of these dog powered transports as they offer a lot more control. The Southeast seems ready to take on the challenge. Check out www.dogsacrossamerica.org and note there is a link to Southeast Dryland Mushers, a Yahoo Group uniting people in the South interested in organizing fun runs.
Okay, so maybe you just aren’t the outdoors type or Spot doesn’t meet the size or physical fitness requirements for harness activities. What else is new this year? One site that offers new and creative toys for dogs is www.activedogtoys.com . Toys of interest are the X-Tire Blinky Ball or, for those dogs who are not sensitive to sound, the X-Tire Ball with Animal Sounds. For the small dog with a couch potato owner, I found the Dog Fisher, basically a fishing pole with a lure attached for the dog to chase and a reel so the owner does not need to leave his seat to retrieve the toy. Again, for the activity-challenged owner, there is a Jumbubbler that blows giant scented bubbles for the dog to pop and an automatic tennis ball launcher called the “Go Dog Go.” Little dogs have plenty of options just their size at www.smalldogmall.com with toys sized from small to mini. For folks with big dogs who are big chewers, check out the “indestructible” toys at www.bigtimedogtoys.net/ultra-tough-toys.html . If you have a puppy, one of the newest toys on the market is the Snuggle Puppies, complete with a warmer and a heartbeat, and found at www.petexpertise.com .
Of course, finances are tight for a lot of people. That doesn’t mean the dog has to be left out of the loop when gifts are handed out! A little creativity and you can make toys for your pup using materials you may have laying about the house. While I hesitate to suggest using clothing as toy material (dogs have trouble distinguishing between your wardrobe and their toys), socks make great toys. You can stuff them with other socks, tie them together in knots, or use them to hold tennis balls or rubber toys. Old ropes provide a great way to play tug and can be used alone or threaded through a tennis ball. If you have old fleece from pajamas or sheets, you can make an excellent tug toy by following directions at http://www.hgtv.com/crafting/fleece-rope-dog-toy/index.html . One friend places a soda can inside a large plastic popcorn jar and her dog goes nuts chasing it about. Look around your house and use your creativity!
Jan Casey is a reward-based trainer in Florida at Courteous Canine, Inc. www.courteouscanine.com and owner of Smiles and Wags Pet Services www.smilesandwags.com. Mrs. Casey is a member of the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals. Mrs. Casey is a columnist for the Cookeville, Tennessee Herald-Citizen Pet Pages and Kid's Korner . This column was originally written for the Herald-Citizen www.herald-citizen.com.

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