Dog Stocking Stuffers: Chad's Favorite Things

If your family is anything like mine,  the holidays are not limited to including just the humans. The dogs get special hikes during our annual holiday break, are included in the family photo for holiday cards and they even get special toys and treats in their stockings.  Some of you may be right there with me and some of you may be rolling your eyes. For me, it just wouldn't be the holiday season if we didn't include the pups.
I have a lot of people asking me how I feel about certain toys, treats and training accessories, so, I'm using this opportunity to create a list of my favorite things that would make great stocking stuffers for your dogs this year.
Chad's Favorite Things:
  • Rubber Toys- Our dog, Nakita, loves rubber toys and, needless to say, she plays roughly with them - chewing, gnawing, chasing it as it bounces all around.  I actually found  a rubber toy that withstood the wrath of Nakita! It is durable, squeaks, bounces and lasts.  Even after she kills the squeaker, she is still drawn to this particular toy and this toy lasts for months in our house and yard. Nakita will be getting a fresh rubber toy in her stocking this year!
  • Tennis Squeaker Balls- Our dog, Jackson, is a bit more traditional.  He's a tennis ball dude! The only thing better than a tennis ball is a tennis ball that squeaks. Certainly there is a live squirrel inside the ball, right?  And if you really want to get that tail wagging, put a squeaky ball on a rope in front of him and boy-howdee.  Great for chucking the ball for fetch or tug-of-war.  If Jackson was a little guy, we would make sure to have plenty of the mini-tennis balls on hand as well. Jackson will surely be getting a new squeaky tennis ball this year!
  • Stuffed Animals- Our littlest dog, Missy, is not only tiny but has a short nose, so the toys she prefers are softer and/or smaller.  She couldn't wrap her mouth around a normal sized toy if she tried, so the toys she likes are soft, stuffed-animal-like toys and teeny smaller toys she can wrap her teeth around. She's been good this year so I see one of these in her stocking.
  • Kongs- Kongs are just great tools to have in general.  I use the word tool because while it can double as a toy, I find it's a really useful tool to occupy dogs for long periods of time.  For instance, if you are having issues with separation anxiety, stuffing a Kong with some tasty wet food can keep a dog focused on something good for long durations rather than worrying or looking for you.  I wrote a whole book on the topic of Separation Anxiety if you are needing more help on that particular subject. The Kong Classic is also good for fetch because it bounces unpredictably. 
I also get a lot of people asking me about special treats to give to their dogs.  To be honest, the market is full of so many dog treats that are expensive and loaded with junk that I'm hesitant to make a recommendation one way or another.  My advice would be to really look at the ingredients before purchasing any treat from a store and ask yourself if the price seems reasonable and if the ingredients are really something you want Fido to have in his system.  For me, and I realize that what I'm about to say is controversial, I'm a fan of feeding raw (I said raw) meaty bones as a treat for my dogs.  Not every vet agrees with me here but more and more seem to be coming around to this idea every day.  Dr. Greg Martinez, DVM, wrote a blog for us on this subject to help shed some light on the dos and don'ts of giving your dog a bone. You may want to check it out as part of your research.
So, there you have it!  A list of my favorite toys.  There are many other great products that I endorse such as the 50 foot long line (perfect for working towards off-leash for your dog), leather leashes (this is really more for the human's comfort) and treat totes (for easy treat delivery), but, talking about training tools like these  as stocking stuffers for dogs is like giving your kids clothes for Christmas.  That's why we focused on the fun stuff!
And for all the Thriving Canines that I've worked with over the years and the humans that love them, may Santa put squeaky toys and tennis balls in your stocking and no lumps of coal.
Happy Holidays!
Chad Culp - Canine Behavior Consultant and Certified Dog Trainer
© Thriving Canine 2013