It’s the season for gift-giving – don’t forget to add your best friend to your shopping list. Here are a few gift ideas that will be sure to get you a few extra face licks.
While toys are an obvious choice, consider a good fetch toy. A brisk round of fetch is great exercise for your dog and it also allows you to practice the important skill of recall, i.e. your dog returning to your call. You have plenty of options here.
Have a Ball
First and foremost, we suggest the ubiquitous ball. No dog can resist the lure of a thrown ball, but even here your choices are many. There are large balls, small balls, heavy balls, light balls, hollow balls, solid balls, balls that squeak, balls that light up or glow in the dark. That’s a lot of options!
Let’s start with the first one – size. The biggest concern here is that a ball that is too small can be a choking hazard, so make sure you get one he or she can’t swallow, especially if it is spongy and compressible. You also want to make sure it isn’t so big that he can’t hold it but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. The weight of the ball should also be proportional to the size and bite strength of your dog. Some balls are made of heavy, hard rubber and are probably best for bigger, stronger dogs, whereas smaller dogs would do better with something like a tennis ball.
Prefer a solid, round ball for a game of fetch. Round balls bounce predictably and consistently, making them easy for your dog to catch off of a hop. We recommend a rubber or plastic ball, not something like a tennis ball, which gets grubby and grimy pretty fast. Rubber and plastic balls are easily washed and dried.
Hollow balls are usually made that way in order to hold a tasty treat, which serves as a way to keep your dog occupied while you’re busy or away. They are fantastic in this regard, but for fetch they can be harder to throw and may not bounce predictably or consistently.
Regarding the sound capabilities of the toy, squeakers can excite your dog but can also be annoying to you and your neighbors. And as sure as they will excite your dog, they will also excite nearby dogs, so if you’re looking for a private game of fetch at the park, squeakers are probably not the best option.
Finally, consider a lighted or glow in the dark ball for night play. If you work all day you may not have time for a game of fetch until it is dark outside. Fortunately, there are myriad options of lighted and glow balls that alleviate that problem, and also help you find the ball if it rolls out of sight behind bushes or trees.
Come Fly With Me
Flying discs are another great choice for more athletic dogs. While just about any dog can run after and fetch a ball, not all have the agility and coordination it takes to snatch a disc out of the air on the run. It is a rewarding and fun activity for both dog and owner. Make sure you get a disc made especially for dogs, however, i.e. no Frisbees or Aerobies, which can be too hard or have sharp edges that can damage their teeth and gums.
For small to medium dogs we suggest a soft rubber or canvas disc. The rubber Kong Flyer flies well, is easy to catch, and is surprisingly durable despite its flimsy feel. There are also several canvas models that fit the bill in this category. There is no chance of your boy hurting his teeth on these and you should be able to get decent distance with them at the park. As an added bonus, they won’t leave marks on your walls if you want to play inside on a cold or rainy day.
For expert disc throwers with medium to large dogs, try a plastic dog disc. A popular brand here is the HyperFlite Jaws series, which are durable and stand up well to strong bites, but also are soft enough as to not damage teeth. Because of their sturdy nature you can really let these rip!
Winter is coming, and not just in Westeros. For dogs in northern climates like Chicago, winter wear can be the perfect pet gift. Dogs with short hair are more susceptible to the cold and might benefit from a handsome sweater or coat. This can be a tricky gift, however, as sizing is very important. We highly recommend you take your dog to the store with you to try on pieces.
Doggie footwear is a great way to keep the ice, sleet, snow, and salt off of your dog’s paws. From something as simple as the cheap, rubber slip-ons that kind of resemble balloons, to full on canvas and rubber booties, there are plenty of options here. Your biggest problem will be getting them to not only put them on, but keep them on. They just aren’t natural and your dog knows it.
If you can’t get shoes to work, you still have options. There are paraffin products, like Musher’s Secret, that you simply apply to the paws before going out. The wax acts as a protective buffer against the worst of the winter elements. Handy tip: get a tub big enough for your dog’s paw to fit into completely, then you can apply it like you would chalk up a cue stick! Four cue sticks in this case.
While not functional, accessories can be fun gifts. I mean, imagine how many “likes” would a cute picture of a dog in a Santa hat or reindeer antlers get on Facebook? Also consider a nice holiday bandana, or if you really want to get crazy, an ugly dog sweater would set your dog apart from others at holiday parties. There are also plenty of sports teams to support in Chicago, and plenty of ways to show your support, from jerseys to bandanas to collars and leashes. Does your dog have a Chicago Blackhawks bandana? Why not? The Cubs just won the World Series a year ago, and, the Bears can use all the support they can get.
Techy Devices & Trackers
The world of pet gadgets is expanding, too. Here are a few that would make handy gifts for you and your pup.
A dog owner’s worst nightmare is a dog that slips his leash or escapes from the yard. This is especially a problem for puppies or new rescues who aren’t yet disciplined enough to return when called. GPS tracking collars can make finding your lost dog much easier. The collar allows you to check the location of your dog at all times, which not only helps you find a lost dog, but also confirm the location of your dog if he is with a walker, sitter, or friend. A gift like this could give you great peace of mind in always knowing where your best friend is.
There are also automated toys, like ball launchers and laser pointers, that can keep your dog occupied while you tend to other things. Some can even be activated remotely, allowing you to exercise your dog while you’re at the office or out shopping! While a bit more expensive, there are also two ways “doggie chat” devices that will allow you to have a video “chat” with your dog, if you’re one of those owners with more separation anxiety than your dog, and let’s face it, if you’re reading a dog blog, you probably are (and that’s OK).
Not sure if your dog is getting enough exercise? You might consider a fitness tracker, similar to the ones we humans use to measure our activity during a given day. Track your dog’s sleep quality, number of steps, and calorie intake and help him be the healthiest dog he can be.
Walk The Walk
These walk accessories can really come in handy and make your walks more enjoyable. For starters, in case you haven’t noticed, the city of Chicago shuts off the water fountains every winter. If you take your dog on prolonged walks you should to take water with you. A water bottle, like this one made by Top Paw, allows you to carry water and serve it in a fold out dish a drink at a time.
Another thing you should always have with you no matter the season is plenty of poop bags. Sure, you can stuff your pockets full of them and tie them to your leash, but it would be much easier to clip a dispenser to your leash. There are myriad options here and they all hold the standard 20-bag rolls.
Finally, for those night walks always carry a good flashlight, not only for your safety but to help you find and pick up your dog’s poop in the dark. We suggest a good tactical flashlight, which will be small enough to keep in your pocket and bright enough to illuminate the evening constitutional.
We could go on and on here. There are many categories of pet gifts that we haven’t covered, such as bedding, harnesses and leashes, and every dog’s favorite – treats – to name a few. We invite you to explore your nearest pet supply store on your own for these and more if we haven’t sufficiently piqued your interest with our suggestions.