27 November 2012

Santa Paws is coming to town...

..aka 5 Christmas gift ideas for dogs (and their owners)

It's that time of year. The shops are full of Christmas decorations and Christmas carols can be heard everywhere. For many of us, our thoughts turn to presents and what to buy our nearest and dearest...including our four legged friends.
Image@ Two greyhounds wearing Christmas hats.

Call me mad (after all, I am known as the 'mad' greyhound lady in the village) but I like to give the hounds a present (or two) on Christmas day. I know they don't know what day of the year it is and why we give presents but why should they miss out?

Well, if you're wondering what to pamper your pooch with this Christmas, or are wondering what to buy a dog loving friend, wonder no more! I've got a super list of five ideas - all tested either by me or the hounds - that would make a great gift this Christmas.

1. Send a 'Secret Santa'...

Who doesn't love receiving a Secret Santa?  All the anticipation of wondering what the gift is and who bought it.  Well, there are a number of companies which provide monthly and one-off gift boxes packed full of toys, treats and presents for dogs and dog-lovers alike.  I've already blogged about Pooch Pack but for Christmas, thought I'd treat the hounds to a Fings for Fido Christmas box.

Contents of the fings for fido Christmas box
The fings for fido Christmas box
Fings for Fido is run exclusively by canines for canines. Red, Lola, Mitzi and Dexter are the canines responsible for running Fings for Fido and for choosing what goodies make it into the gift boxes.  I was lucky enough to order an advance Christmas box and get a sneak peek at what pooch pressies lay inside...

...and I wasn't disappointed! For £29.99 the box came packed with a good range of toys, treats, a Reg and Ruby edible Christmas card, a small spray of pet remedy (great for keeping canines calm), a Stag bar (well Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a reindeer of some sort) and the latest copy of Dogs Today magazine.

Stevie greyhound plays with the santa tug toy
Stevie gets to grips with Santa
The toys included a 'Tug a Santa', 'Doggy lips' (I love these), a green rubber stick (for playing safe games of fetch) and an Ancol treat toy in the shape of a bone.  The hounds seem very taken with the box from the moment it arrived (they can sniff out a good treat when they smell one) and Stevie had the first game of tug with Santa.

I'd recommend the box for the sheer variety of gifts it provides.  As I have three dogs, there were more than enough toys for one each and even Jasper, with his four remaining teeth, was able to enjoy the treats and play with the lips and the rubber stick.

A Fings for Fido Christmas box costs £29.99 and if you order before 10 December 2012 delivery is guaranteed for Christmas.  You can order a Christmas box from: www.fingsforfido.com

2. Trim that tree with decorations that are good enough to eat...

Why should it be just us humans who can hang edible decorations on the Christmas tree?  Surely our canine companions deserve some edible (and well out of reach) delectable decorations too?

Reg & Ruby rawhide angel decorations hanging on tree
Reg & Ruby edible angel decorations
Well, this year I'm trying out Reg and Ruby's edible rawhide decorations.  I discovered Reg and Ruby a few years ago as their edible rawhide Christmas cards are available in my local Sainsbury's and I just couldn't resist buying each of the hounds a card.

Last year, the hounds were treated to a Reg and Ruby edible advent calendar, where each day you could cut off a small rawhide bone as the treat.  This year, I'm giving the decorations a go. They're very pretty angels and as of yet I'm undecided whether to hang them on the tree (well out of the hounds' reach) or display them on the mantelpiece.

Reg and Ruby products can be bought online from a number of retailers including - D for Dog.  Prices for the angel decorations start from £2.55, edible Christmas cards from £3 and the edible advent calendar for £7.99.

3.  Cookies for canines...

I love baking home-made treats for the hounds but in the run up to Christmas, when time is short, I just don't have the time.  I first came across Patchwork Pooch on Twitter and then met them at this year's Lincolnshire Show.

They are a local Lincolnshire company who hand make and bake gourmet dog treats.  There's even a gluten free range for dogs like Mina who can't tolerate wheat.  The bone shaped biscuits come in four flavours: original, cheese, chicken and beef and prices for a packet start from £2.55.

My local dog grooming salon - Fur Do's Salon - stocks Patchwork Pooch products, including the lovely Christmas jar above. I popped in to have Jasper's nails trimmed (his nails are more like hooves than nails) and came away laden with some packets of Patchwork Pooch biscuits and the Christmas jar. You can Patchwork Pooch biscuits and more from their website.

4.  We three books of dog training are...

I like a good read and certainly with my university studies, my bookshelves are now groaning under the weight of dog training and behaviour books. There are so many great dog books to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. Two new books have hit bookshelves this year: The Official Ahimsa Dog Training Manual by Grisha Stewart and What Your Dog Wants - 7 Key Skills of a Perfect Dog Owner by Karen Wild.

Grisha's book - The Official Ahimsa Dog Training Manual - is suitable for dog owners, trainers and breeders. It contains a great introduction to the science behind dog training and how dogs learn - in a very reader friendly way.

The book also introduces clicker training and explains how and why it works to such great effect with our dogs (and many other animals). There is a great section on dealing with problem behaviours including puppy biting and chewing, barking in class, separation anxiety and resource guarding.

The bulk of the book is dedicated to showing and explaining to the reader how to create good habits for their dogs, in a humane, force free way. Grisha often provides several different ways for teaching an exercise and plenty of advice to make sure both you and your dog succeed.

The book is available on Amazon.co.uk as a paper back and retails at £8.06. It's also available as an e-book (in Kindle, e-pub and pdf formats) for $9.95 from Dogwise.com

What your dog wants is written by Karen Wild.  It is an easy to follow guide to building a better relationship with your your dog and is split into seven key skills for dog owners: Comprehension, Communication, Understanding, Motivation, Stimulation, Awareness and Responsibility.

The book is packed full with great colour photos throughout, which really help illustrate the topics. The Communication section contains a break down of how dogs learn and see the world, along with step by step instructions (and photos) for basic training.

The Awareness section helps the reader understand the needs of dogs at their different life-stages and the final section on Responsibility is packed full with sound advice on keeping your dog safe (and on the right side of the law)!

The book serves as a great introduction to owning, caring for and training a dog and would make a great Christmas present for a new dog owner. It is available on Amazon in hardback for £7.99 and £4.49 for Kindle format.  Signed copies are also available to order from Karen's website: www.karenwild.co.uk

Merle's Door, by Ted Kerasote, isn't a dog training book as such and may not be a book you have heard of (despite being published in 2007).  However, it is worthy of any Christmas stocking.

The book chronicles how Ted  found Merle -who was living wild - whilst on a camping trip to the Utah desert.  Ted had been looking for a dog to keep him company when their paths crossed.

It is a story of their life together and the author's reflections upon dogs in modern society and an increasingly urbanised world. Marley and Me, it is not.  It's 361 pages long and I found it a riveting read, which is why it is still on my bookshelf.

Reading it opens the door to another lifestyle completely - both that of Ted and Merle.  It certainly provides food for thought.

The book is available on Amazon in both paper back (£8.45) and hard back (£14.32) formats.

5. Rudolph (the not so) red nosed reindeer...

It wouldn't be Christmas without a Christmas themed toy for the hounds to try.  Each year I look for a new toy to try... over the years we've had a fat Santa ball, Christmas pudding tug toys, snowmen toys, penguin toys and even a turkey toy!

Mina gets to grips with a crunchy reindeer
This year I've found a reindeer toy with a bit of a difference. The dog it reindeer crunch is a toy that you can put an empty plastic water bottle in, which gives it that added allure (especially for Mina).  It's also got a squeaker in the head - just in case the noise of crackling and crunching the water bottle isn't enough to excite your dog!

Mina loved it (she's had a sneak test-run before Christmas, so I could write about it on the blog). How long it will last, I'm not quite sure - after all Mina is a squeaker seeker and destroyer extraordinaire.  It seems pretty robust, so we'll be keeping fingers and paws crossed that it lasts into 2013.

The Reindeer Crunch retails from around £4.49 - £5.99 and is available online at Seapets.co.uk

So, what's on your Christmas wish list?

I hope you've found some inspiration for Christmas gifts and if you've some other ideas of what would make great Christmas presents for hounds and their humans, please do share them in a comment.

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