Gift ideas for your dog

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 12/16/12
By: Gail T. Fisher

Each year at this time, I review the American Pet Products Association spending estimates. Spending on pets is estimated to be nearly $53 billion this year (that’s with a ‘B’). This includes birds, fish, cats, reptiles, and horses, as well as dogs. Despite the economy, this estimate is up nearly two billion dollars over last year. This may seem like good news for those of us in the industry, but as a dog trainer, I’m at the tail end of this receiving line. In fact, training doesn’t even qualify as a category. Spending breaks down into these categories: Food 39%; Vet care 26%; Supplies/OTC Med 24%; Pet services (boarding/grooming) 8%; Live animal purchases 4%.

Despite the fact that the APPA estimates an increase in spending this year, I suspect quite a few readers are looking for ways to economize as the holidays approach. So let me once again offer some suggestions for low-cost (and even free) gifts for your dog, your dog owning friends, and you!

Toys: Rather than consumable items such as rawhide chews, bully sticks and pigs’ ears—many of which are potentially harmful or can even be fatal to your dog—consider a “recyclable” chewable that is not only less expensive, it’s way better for your dog. A hollow sterile femur bone lasts for years (and can be put in the dishwasher for cleaning). Stuff it full of a mixture of soft cheese or peanut butter mixed with your dog’s own food and your dog will happily spend loads of time working on it, both chewing and getting the goodies out. You can even freeze it and give it to your dog when you leave the house to keep him busy while you’re gone.

Numerous, reasonably-priced toys on the market will not only keep your dog entertained and busy, they provide an outlet for your dog’s mental and physical energy as well. There are a number of quality toys you can fill with your dog’s dry dog food, and it is slowly released, piece-by-piece as your dog plays with it: the Tug-a-Jug and the Busy Buddy Twist & Treat (Premier Pet Products), Monster Mouth (Jolly Pets), Kong Stuff-a-Ball and a wide variety of Kong toys (Kong), Bob-A-Lot, Everlasting Fun Ball and Everlasting Treat Ball (Starmark), Tricky Treat Ball (Omega Paw). Of course you need to reduce your dog’s daily meal by the amount you put in the toys so you’re not overfeeding. Or use it as an entertaining way to feed your dog her entire meal.

Books: I love books, and there are countless wonderful books for any dog lover of any age. Of course I think the best gift book this year is an autographed copy of THE THINKING DOG by (um … me!). Contact me if you’d like a personalized autographed copy for yourself or a dog-loving friend.

Time/companionship/training: If you ask your dog what he or she wants for a gift, most dogs would tell you they really want a gift of your attention—a gift of your time. And it’s free! Consider making a commitment to your dog (accruing benefits and enjoyment for you, too!) to take a regular walk or spend some time three or four days a week teaching your dog a new trick or enjoying her repertoire of already-learned ones. If your dog is untrained, or could use some additional training, a gift of a training class is something both you and your dog will value and benefit from for years to come. And for something to do this winter, consider giving you and your dog an enrollment in a Dog Sport class such as dog Agility or Rally. Dog Sports are both fun and are a terrific way to sharpen your dog’s skills and reliability, too, while providing a healthy, fun outlet for his energy. You don’t have to be an athlete, and neither does your dog.

Not sure what to give someone? How about a gift certificate to their local dog daycare, kennel, grooming shop, training school or pet store. They’ll appreciate it, and so will their dog! Happy holidays to you and your pets!

Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2012. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this article or suggestions for future topics, please contact us.