When it comes to giving gifts, where do you start?
Over the years, thanks to the web, I’ve honed my Christmas shopping skills. I make a list of who I have to buy a gift for and then I browse sites, read reviews and I try to find inspiration to help me find something that says ‘I saw this and thought of you’.
When it comes to my dogs, I start shopping for them in the same way but with one main difference. A brilliant idea for a gift for a pet lover is to buy them something that features a photo of their pet as these are just wonderful and so sure to be very much appreciated.
I’m not just shopping for their happiness, I’m also aware that what I buy for them has the potential to impact on my happiness too.
For example, my dog might not love a new raised feeder that’s weighted so un-moveable, but she would love the fact she can eat from it and from my perspective, the fact she can no longer throw her food bowl when empty straight into her water bowl (which sits directly next to it) causing an almighty splash that means I have to spend 10 minutes clearing up a sodden floor, might be more for me than for her. But seriously, this happens twice a day.
So, where do you begin?
I try to mix the practical with the fun.
My two younger boys love a toy. But I know that most Christmas toys don’t last a day. Stuffed toys will have the stuffing tug-o-warred out within hours and squeaky toys become squeak-less by tea time.
So, if I buy a Santa or Snowman dog toy, I know I’m wrapping something up for them to play with for a few hours, rather than something they’ll have for years to come and I won’t spend a lot on it.
Now, I try to choose one practical which will last and one impractical which won't. The former for them, the latter for me, and they have fun, which is the name of the game.
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My oldest dog is on a restricted diet which is disappointing, for her at least, because food is her one true love, so I make her a special Christmas meal which sticks within the remits of her diet.
I’m not sure she cares that love was poured into the menu to keep it safe for her to eat, I don’t really care though, this is as much about me knowing I’m giving her a special treat as the five minutes it’ll take her to consume it.
Then, I’ll look at what my dogs use on a daily basis and what I’d love them to have.
I’ll ask myself if there was a time of year that I wished we had something only to discover we didn’t and could have benefited.
For example, last Summer Mia’s mobility completely went. Combined with illness, we barely left her side for months but that’s not practical long term, so eventually, we had to leave her for a short period.
When we did, our dog treat dispensing cameras were essential. If one broke, I’d have to replace it in an instant so I’ll consider if it’s still performing as it once did and what the warranty status is.
It may sound excessive, but once you’ve tried one your life will be forever changed and I don’t say this lightly. I recently shared two with celebrity friends, a Real Housewives of Cheshire star and social media star Bryan the Miniature Dachshund, and both said the same thing.
Using ours, I can settle my dogs down if they’re anxious and barking, they can hear my voice and I can hear theirs, I can give them treats and it gives me enormous peace of mind. It’s a piece of modern technology that makes my life and that of my dogs, richer.
I’ll also consider the basics like, do they have a collar and lead that’s the best fit for them? If not, it’s a time of year I’ll consider one that might be more expensive or flamboyant than I’d usually consider.
And finally, I’ll think about their beds. Practical but essential. For Mia, the padding is all-important for her ageing joints so I need to know it’s still up to scratch and for Danny, who regularly throws his beds around, I’ll do an inspection to see if he’s torn any recently. If so, on the list a bed goes.
I’ve heard of dog owners booking holidays that their dogs can join them on too, as a gift that’s for them and their dog, which has a lovely sentiment behind it, don’t you think?
We all know that one of the things our dogs want most is to spend time by our sides, which is ultimately the biggest gift they give us.
Whatever you do, however you treat your dog, we hope you have a fantastic holiday season.