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The Giving Season

When it comes to gifts, many of us struggle to find something for loved ones who have everything. When the loved one is a dog, selecting presents is way easier—as far as dogs are concerned, there’s no such thing as enough of everything, especially things to eat and play with.

On the edible A List: antlers (so holiday-appropriate!), yak milk chews, dried fish skins or high-quality, nutritious treats (choose smaller-sized goodies to offset potential overindulgence). And don’t forget that treats are among the easiest things to make at home. There are lots of great dogcentric cookbooks, and the Bark website also has an eclectic collection of recipes (at thebark.com/recipes). If you have a dehydrator, put it to use by making jerky treats—we also happen to have an excellent recipe for chicken jerky sweet potato chews on our site; find it at thebark.com/jerky.

When it comes to toys, those that the two of you can play with together are reliable faves—especially tug toys, especially if you let the dog win occasionally. These are also easy to DIY, and give you an excellent way to finally use those old tube socks cluttering your sock drawer: tie a few knots in them and you have a toy with a scent only a dog can appreciate. Find more possibilities at thebark.com/diy. Or, for a two-fer, choose a Kong-like toy that can be stuffed with treats or more complex puzzle “enrichment” toys that entice your dog to find hidden rewards.

If you’re purchasing a toy, avoid those made from hard plastic (or packaged that way), and remove all tags, fabric hanger loops and plastic bits, especially from soft toys, before handing them to the canine giftee. It’s also a good idea to inspect the toy carefully and consider removing anything that a dog might be able to pull off and swallow (“eyes” or other nonessential elements, for example). If you’re sharing the holiday with friends or relatives, save everyone’s sanity by going the no-squeaker route.

Of less interest to dogs but very appealing to their people are accouterments such as new beds, warm sweaters and jackets, sturdy leashes, decorative collar tags, or other little luxuries. For a handy multitasker, check out dehydrators, which can be used to make delectables, like fruit chews, for everyone. Dogs won’t enjoy unwrapping this stuff quite as much, but their people will appreciate them.

Speaking of unwrapping … some dogs like to open their own gifts, so choose wrappings that are safe for them. Any kind of paper—even newspaper—lightly taped, works best. Ditch the ribbon or string, which can cause big problems if swallowed. If your dog’s an “unwrapper,” it’s probably best not to leave gifts on the floor around the tree unless a spot-on “leave it” cue is in place.

And, of course, there’s a No List: No surprise live animals (like a new dog friend); holidays are the worst time to introduce a new dog into a family. No China-made toys or treats (especially treats). No chocolate or other dicey-for-dogs ingredients; check the ASPCA’s poison control pages for details: aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control.

Now, what are you waiting for? Make a list, check it twice and reward both naughty and nice with a present that’s sure to be well received.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 76: Winter 2013

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