It’s time to start holiday shopping for the favorite dogs in your life! Need a little inspiration? Here are five different styles of gift that will enrich your dog’s senses and help him have even more fun with you this holiday season.
- Edible treats
These are one of Dart’s favorite, and the easiest to buy! We currently have 4 cans of moist food hiding in Dart’s dog cabinet, waiting to be tucked away in his stocking. Canned food is especially exciting because Dart typically only eats dry food in his everyday life. The dry food he eats is designed to help clean his teeth (often by friction scraping off tartar) and it’s definitely more affordable than canned food, so this will be an extra special treat for him. Over the years he has learned exactly what goes inside these stocking things. He can’t wait to eat all the goodies inside. In that case, I’ve got to wait and sneak around like Santa, putting all dog presents in the stocking late on Christmas Eve. As soon as this stocking is hung, you can count on his little nose sniffing around to uncover all the secrets hidden inside.
- Destroyable toys
What great fun for all the super-chewers in your family! Dart is a bit of a destroyer, if I’m brave enough to let him tear apart a new squeaky toy in the first few minutes of its life. When he was younger, Dart and his brother loved chewing on all types of nylabones and other hard chewable toys. These were a great supplement to brushing my dogs’ teeth, because most chewable toys are also designed to help scrape tartar buildup off their pearly whites. When you’re shopping, make sure to check out what life stage each type of bone or chew toy is for. Puppies typically need something softer to chew while they’re teething, but older dogs might need extra supervision to not eat up these softer toys. Of course, now that Dart has lost a tooth, chewing isn’t as much of a priority anymore. Have your dog’s preferences changed as they age? The tactile sensation of chewing might just occupy your dog for hours.
- Noise-making toys
If your dog is anything like mine, he thinks squeaky toys are THE. MOST. EXCITING. When you’re shopping in this category, you’re looking for all the sounds your dog might enjoy. Perhaps this is more fun to shop for in-person, rather than online where you can’t hear all the toys. Dart really goes for squeakers, and sometimes crinkly-sounding toys are pretty fun too. Every once in a while I’ll treat him to a toy with a pre-recorded sound, such as a little laughing hedgehog, but the tiny activating button never lasts long around my super-destructive dog. He loves to make sure his toys never make noise again! Natural born killer??
- Puzzling toys
We have so much fun playing Mind Games together! There are a lot of great games on the market, but be sure to think through your dog’s motivation and sensory preferences before you buy. I once bought Dart a toy that was essentially a bottle with a rope in it, but it was way too hard for him to get the food out of it. Additionally, once he started pushing the bottle around on the tile floor and up against baseboards, the noise was overly loud and too scary for him to play with. Our favorite games stimulate Dart’s sense of smell as he searches for food and solves puzzles to get the kibble out. You may have to go through some trial-and-error like we did, but once you find the “just-right challenge,” your dog will have loads of fun solving puzzles and playing games with you.
- Chaseable toys
Ok, so living in the desert has spoiled us a bit. We can play fetch outside on all these beautiful sunny December days! These tiny Kong tennis balls are perfectly-sized for my 18-pound dachshund. And, at least until Dart chews the heck out of them, they also squeak. Some of the dogs that may LOVE this activity are those that were bred to retrieve or visually track and chase things. My last dachshund would never give up a game of fetch, I had to trick him and hide the ball away once his feet started to bleed on the patio. What is your dog OBSESSED with?
I hope you’ve enjoyed our list of fun toys that will help you engage with your dog and build a rewarding relationship! Of course, there are many other great types of gifts out there. Don’t tell Dart, but he’s getting his very first bowtie this Christmas. I might die from cuteness overload, but I don’t think he’s going to be very excited by a bowtie. Trust that you know your dog, and when you shop for his present, don’t forget to create a variety of new and enjoyable sensory experiences for his mental health this holiday season ❤