What your dog wants for Christmas

This is our recommendations for gifts for your best friends–your dogs–whether for the holidays or whenever–each of these toys was tried and tested by hounds who, as a breed, are pretty stubborn as playtime goes.  Each toy below passed their scrutiny with flying colors.  Ultimately your dog wants you, your time, and a warm home.  But some of these items will help you connect with your dog.

We bought more than one of some of these over the years, usually so individual dogs didn’t have to share, like the Twist’n’Treats.  Only one of these on the below list ever broke–the Tug-a-Jug–because a human dropped it onto a hard floor and the base cracked, and we replaced it, but over the years we bought at least three and the dogs loved them.

Always monitor your dogs when playing with toys.  Pieces can be chewed off quicker than you might think, and you don’t want an emergency room visit to have something removed if swallowed.  We suggest avoiding toys with “squeakers”–these get removed by dogs easier than anything else and can also be swallowed, choke a dog, or otherwise block her system.

This PetSafe brand Twist’n’Treat rated #1 with our dogs.  It unscrews so you can put small treats, kibbles, or biscuits inside.  It’s easy for a dog to chew, and it takes some time and effort for your dog to unscrew it to get the prize inside.  It’s also easy to tighten it over time after it gets easier for the dog to figure out.

This PetSafe brand Tug-a-Jug rope toy and treat dispenser is a big hit.   Two dogs will play tug-o’-war with it, and if a person holds it, as many as three dogs can take turns pulling the rope down to release a kibble treat.  The holes at the bottom allow the scent of the treats inside outward to attract your furry friend.  It unscrews simply to add more treats or to clean it.

Do you have a dog who loves to work his brain? Then this one is for him/her.  It’s a casino with slots and removable toys for dispensing treats.  Your dog will figure it out, component by component.  Drawers open only after the dog figures out how to remove the bone pegs on top.  It’s from Outward Hound, and you can’t go wrong with any of their educational pet toys.  Make sure you monitor use on this, especially with a bigger dog who might be inclined to chew the plastic bone parts.

Another toy our dogs found to be fun is this Outward Hound saucer treat spinner.  For dogs that gobble down their food, this can also be used to slow them down.

Want to help your dogs stay strong as they get older?  Teach your dog to sit on one side of these cone hurdles (or make your own from holes drilled in cones and cut PVC from the hardware store).  Use a small treat to get your dog to walk across the hurdles from end to end with different commands, raising the bar over time to build up their hips and hind leg muscles.  A few of our dogs got quite good at this.  We got the idea from a physical therapist for our older dogs.

We watched one of our friends who visited each year chase down this ChuckIt fetch wheel, and it was his favorite toy.  It’s sturdy, and his dad would throw it several yards away and he’d make a mad dash to retrieve it and want it thrown again right away.

This one is not a toy, but for less than $15, consider an electric water bowl for any outside animals.  Dogs, cats, strays, birds, and other critters can go weeks without fresh water in the winter.  Lack of water is a further stress on their organs in addition to other outside dangers.  It’s a cheap one-and-done way to help out anyone out in the cold.

We didn’t have this exact version, but toys like Trixie’s Flip Board are great for dogs who get bored easily.  Even if they figure it out, they’ll have fun with this each time they try it.

Two of our dogs loved this Trixie Chess “busy box” game.  Any dog can learn to slide and remove pieces in order to get hidden treats.  Although a more rambunctious furry kiddo may opt to pick it up by the side and flip it over to get to the treats fast.  Nota bene.

And last, but not least, DogIt’s 3-in-1 interactive smart toy is another toy that will have your dog surprise you as he figures out how to make all the gauges work.  Treats are hidden underneath compartments and your dog will need to figure out how to move the green playing pieces from side to side.  A good challenge!

You don’t have dogs?  Get one at your local animal rescue!

And have a great Christmas!

C.J. Bunce

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