Holiday Gift Guide for Naughty Dogs and Their Nice Humans
Whether it’s for your own or a friend’s four-legged troublemaker, here are some unique gift ideas to stuff their stockings, along with some lumps of coal holiday treats, of course.
Probably the most common cause of naughtiness in dogs is boredom. And with cold temperatures and bad winter weather coming our way, going for long walks or play dates at the dog park might not be an option. Squeaky toys are great, but some dogs find endless fulfillment in learning new things and working closely with their owners. One of the best ways to build a strong bond with your dog and provide mental stimulation for them is through training classes. If the dog you’re shopping for has never taken any classes, then basic manners is a good place to start, but if he/she is already a pro at sitting, staying, and coming when called, consider signing up for sports like agility, flyball, treibball, rally obedience, barn hunt, and tracking. They can be tons of fun for both ends of the leash.
A budget-friendly alternative is a good book or DVD on tricks and games. Kyra Sundance is the author of several books with easy-to-follow steps to teach your dog things like wiping their paws, recognizing directional cues like “right” and “left”, and even painting their own artwork. If the household includes kids, I would recommend “101 Dog Tricks, Kids Edition: Fun and Easy Activities, Games, and Crafts.” It has tons of ideas to entertain both canine and human children, including step-by-step directions to create toys and games with common household items.
If local trainers don’t offer gift certificates, and you are not sure that a book on tricks would do the trick (pun intended), an alternative to boredom busting could be one of these unique toys:
- An iFetch interactive ball launcher, which combines mental and physical exercise, as the dog not only runs to go get the ball, but also needs to learn to bring the ball back and deposit it into the launcher. As you can see in this video, fetching is not just fun for retrievers.
- A bacon bubble machine, which could be a big hit or a big miss. Not all dogs care for bubbles. I tried non-toxic bubbles with my dogs to see how they would react, and not a single one of them showed any interest in anything but the actual plastic wand. However, if you are holiday shopping for a dog like the ones in this video, then it could be a cool present.
- A tether tug, which is a clever solution if you have a strong tug-of-war-lover and you don’t want to lose an arm. They come in all shapes and sizes, including some that can be used indoors and some that claim to be indestructible; see the full list of products here: https://tethertug.com/products. They are relatively inexpensive, and you would be supporting a small business here in the US.
- A Clever Pet toy, which could be described as the high-tech (and high-price) offspring of the “Treat & Train” remote dog trainer and the Simon Electronic Game for kids. It is an automatic food dispenser that responds based on the pads your dog touches. A similar alternative is the Puppod, which is also based on targeting but at a distance. Toys like these take patience and commitment, but they could be great for those too-smart-for-their-own-good dogs. See the Clever Pet in action here:
Stress and anxiety are also common causes of bad behavior. Just like the holidays are stressful for humans, our dogs might also find other situations to be quite stressful. A dog can misbehave as a coping mechanism to something scary: thunderstorms, fireworks, the high-pitched beeping of a fire alarm, a particular smell, or even something as innocuous as birds (yes, one of my dogs is terrified when Spring comes and birds start chirping and flying around the yard). So, if you are shopping for a dog who is more than nutty than naughty, consider the following two really special gift ideas.
- A gift certificate for a canine massage. Indeed, some dogs absolutely love massages almost more than treats or toys. In addition to reducing their blood pressure, relieving some muscle tension can also help them be less cranky and happier later on. That is especially true for older dogs and very active breeds. The School of Canine Massage in Chicago offers gift certificates for one-hour professional canine massage sessions, as well as for hands-on massage classes where dog parents and their canines can attend and learn relaxation techniques. It could be a fantastic gift for a professional or amateur dog handler (vet techs, trainers, boarding staff, pet sitters, etc.), or any dog parent who wants to be able to impress their friends with words like effleurage and petrissage.
- A basket for basket-cases. Instead of a basket full of lotions, scented candles, and bath salts (all of which could be very dangerous for a dog), fill up a cute red-and-green basket with the following: a bag of Zuke’s Calming Peanut Butter treats, a CD of Canine Lullabies, a bottle of Adaptil to be sprayed on a cute bandana. If you want to throw in a Thundershirt too, go for it. You may need to include a disclaimer that not all dogs get in a lotus position as soon as you give them one of the chews or play one of the songs. Some respond very well to pheromones (there are many but Adaptil comes highly recommended by a behaviorist), which work best when they are sprayed on a bandana and then placed snuggly around the dog’s neck; others really like the feeling of being hugged by the Thundershirt. The same can be said about music, although since it may also have a calming effect on the humans around the dog, it could be the gift that keeps on giving. And if your holiday budget allows for it, how about the iCalmDog 3.0? It is a player pre-loaded with 4 hours of music to calm your canine in a variety of situations. Since it is quite an investment, you can listen to some free samples here first: http://throughadogsear.com/icalmdog/icalmdog-sound-samples/