Every time the holiday season rolls around, my mother asks me for some gift ideas, to which I reply, “Zukes! A stuffed raccoon! This-Obscure-Training-Book-Here is-How-to-Order-It” or the dreaded gift certificate to any place that will allow me to buy training or playing supplies for my dogs. (CleanRun.com! Amazon.com!) This drives her insane and each year and she laments, “But I want to get something for you, not for your dogs!” Now, really. She knows me well enough to know: a gift for a Dog Person’s dog(s) is a gift for them. Last year we compiled a Gift Guide and we still stand by loving every one of those suggestions, so check that out! I am sure if you read this blog, you or somebody else on your shopping list will enjoy the goodies that we enjoy – so here is a list of our favorite picks for this year. Enjoy, and happy shopping!
Jennifer - Lotus Balls
I LOVE LOTUS BALLS. These velcro-lined fabric balls are a perfect transitional toy if you have a dog who is not especially toy-motivated (Dog Mob holla!) but is food-motivated, and you need to build value into toys for some reason (such as: you’re trying to learn agility and you need to be able to drop a big valuable reward on the dog’s line instead of rewarding from your hand).
Plus, it’s pretty funny to watch your dogs get competitive about them:
You can find Lotus Balls at any major dog supply retailer or well-stocked independent shop. Online, Chewy usually has pretty good prices, and Clean Run is a reliable retailer as well.
also Jennifer – Clean Run’s line of real fur treat/tug pouches
Clean Run has a phenomenal line of Velcro-closed pouches made of real fur — rabbit, sheepskin, raccoon, and more — that are another great transitional choice for dogs that need a little extra enticement to play. The combination of real fur + tugging + treats + the ability to play “chase the squirrel” games is irresistable to many dogs, even those who don’t have a lot of experience with or interest in toys generally. Dog Mob goes bananas for their bunny fur treat/tug pouch and will shoulder each other out of the way like their own crazed mini Walmart-on-Black-Friday stampede to get at that thing.
what? not done yet? yep still Jennifer - the Fenzi Frenzy line of chase/tug toys
Denise Fenzi is justly famed throughout competition obedience circles for her focus on teaching play skills to dogs and people. Play is a powerful motivator and relationship-builder, and while the tools that you use are secondary to developing the right skills, having great toys sure does help!
Two of the toys sold through the Fenzi online store are especially worth a look: the Fenzi Frenzy and the Bunny/Cowzy. Both of these toys, handmade with real fur and leather, are designed for dogs who aren’t yet avid tuggers and may not be avid players at all. They’re intended to be “chase” toys more than “tug” toys (think of a flirt pole that you keep on the ground, dragging it in herky-jerky motions as a pretend squirrel “fleeing” from 6 inches away from your dog’s nose, instead of whipping through the air) and can be used very effectively to develop a curious or less confident dog’s interest in toy play when full-on tugging might not yet be something that dog’s up for.
Boomer Balls [$8 on up]
Boy, have I become a fan of these this year! Boomer Balls actually began as enrichment toys for zoo animals, and if you look around on their website, you’ll see pictures of different Boomer Balls being played with by polar bears, tigers, hedgehogs, ferrets, etc. At my job, you’ll see different sizes of Boomer Balls all over the place: the horses love them, the pigs love them, and of course, so do a ton of the dogs. Boomer Balls are hard plastic: they’re about as close to indestructible as I’ve ever seen, and they are perfect for dogs who love to kick and push balls around but also have a tendency to destroy them. If your backyard is full of the corpses of soccer balls (LUCY!), these guys are a great alternative. I’ve had a lot of fun teaching my work dogs to push these around: once your dog gets interested in them, you can teach them to move the ball in one direction or another (herding style), teach them to push the ball into a goal or a hula hoop (treiball style), and so on. The sky’s the limit! They also come in all different sizes: I have several of the smaller, cheaper ones, but my job has a few of the 20 and 30 inch ones (which are HUGE) and the dogs go bananas when we pull them out. If you’ve got a dog for whom nomming the ball is half the fun, I’d go with a Jolly Ball (my other big time favorite) instead. But for kicky pouncy jumpy good times, the Boomer Ball is terrific. (Kelsey)
Cloud Star Tricky Trainers
I have a dog who would train for stale Cheerios from 1973 (Hint, it is the pitbull!), and I have a dog who needs a little bit more persuasion. I have found these chewy Tricky Trainers to be unfailingly delicious for my choosy dog when I need something a bit more convenient than cooking chicken for her or chopping up ham. I discovered these when a friend ordered the Liver flavor for her dogs and was absolutely repulsed by how disgusting they smelled – she gave me the whole bag! “Disgusting smelling liver treats” equals pure heaven for Perri. Another friend of mine has a dog who is easily three or three thousand times more picky than Perri, and she has never stopped loving the Cheddar flavor. So for the choosy dog on your shopping list who will turn up her nose at whatever home cooked delicacy you just slaved over in the kitchen for an hour, these are worth checking out! (Danielle)
*Cosigned! These are the best training treats ever, and there are a ton in every bag. I still go through a shockingly high number of bags per month, because they are that good. (Kelsey)
Unsaid by Neil Abramson. [$9.99] Since I am the resident dog crazy at my work, my coworker handed this over to me when she was finished reading it and said, “Read this, it is excellent and you will be completely depressed while reading it.” Uh, okay?
No lying here, this is a gut-punch of a book, tears in the eyes and unable to put it down and all of that. (Danielle)
If, like me, you’re the kind of person who likes to dabble in all kinds of dog sports, this is SO the book for you. This book features short (5-10 page) overviews of a whole bunch of different dog sports: the bigs (flyball, agility, obedience) are of course represented, but the book also covers slightly more obscure sports (earthdog! dock jumping! carting! [fill-in-the-blank]-joring!) Each section gives you a basic overview of the sport, discusses the kind of training required, addresses the (human) culture around the sport and lays out a realistic estimate of what kind of time and money each sport requires. There’s also a good overview of which organizations sponsor which events (note: this is pretty North America-specific) and what each organization’s titling structure entails (a plus for ribbon junkies!) The overviews are concise and information-packed, but Mehus-Roe has this lovely, cheery, encouraging tone throughout that makes you feel like “Yeah! I could totally do this!” There’s also a great section on conditioning for canine athletes, as well as a useful section on ‘cool things to do with your dog that are not quite so organized’. I read the book cover to cover and still consult it all the time. (Kelsey)
I’ll throw out recommendations for every book that I liked well enough to review on TU this year: (Jennifer)
Part Wild by Ceiridwen Terrill – what happens with a young woman suffering from a host of emotional and relationship problems purchases a high-content wolf hybrid? Nothing good, but a lot of things that are important. This is a wrenching read, but a valuable and harrowing experience from someone who was brave enough to offer her personal ordeal as a lesson for us all.
Little Boy Blue by Kim Kavin – a good exploration of the world of South-to-North transport-based rescues: why they exist, what they do, and what the issues are that confront rescuers and adopters who choose to specialize in this particular, sometimes controversial, niche.
aaalso, while I will most likely be doing a full review for TU in a little bit, I can’t resist the urge to mention Denise Fenzi and Deb Jones’s Dog Sports Skills series (now up to two books, with a third on its way to the editor shortly). The first book is on Engagement and Relationship, the second is on Motivation. Both are incredibly good reads and packed full of information and ideas that will set your brain on fire if you’re even remotely interested in motivational, relationship-based sports work with your dog. It’s no accident that these authors are spearheading a revolution in competition obedience; they know their stuff, they want excellence for their students, and they can tell you how to do it.
1-Year Subscription to Clean Run magazine. [$29.95-48.00] This is a great magazine for any agility enthusiast and I am sharing it here because I am three months into my very first subscription and loving every bit of it. I really don’t think that you can go wrong with this one for anybody who loves agility even a little bit! Subscriptions can be purchased in live snail-mail format or digital download version. I opted for the digital version and reading the magazine on my iPad is as simple and easy as clicking a link and enjoying. (Danielle)
Collar D’Elights [staring at $20]
I absolutely love wide martingale collars, but for a while couldn’t really find anything on Etsy or anywhere that I liked for Molly. My search ended when I laid eyes on that beautiful collar that Molly is wearing in the above photo. Collar D’Elights has a big store full of many different designs (holiday themed even!), every collar is handmade and well made. Who doesn’t love a new, gorgeous collar for their pup?
Clik-Stik [$15-20, depending on where you look]
This is one of those products that I resisted getting for a long time, and now that I finally have one, I use it constantly and have no idea what I did without it. So, if you’re reading this blog, I bet you’ve done some hand targeting with your dog, right? Of course you have! Hand targeting is the best! 99% of the time, it’s the first thing I teach new dogs, and I use it for all kinds of different stuff. However, your hand has one distinct disadvantage: it’s attached to your arm, which means your target can only extend a couple of feet away from your body. This is challenging if you’re trying to teach a dog to move away from you, or to go to a certain area (say, a mat or their bed), or to teach a fancy trick. The Clik Stik is a pretty great way to get past that problem. First, you teach the dog to target the little yellow ball on the end of the Clik Stik. Then, when your dog is doing that reliably, you can extend the telescoping wand out to get your dog targeting at a distance. This is great for teaching complicated behaviors; it’s also a great thing to have around if you’ve got a dog who wants to work when you want to veg out and watch TV or something (you move the stick around, your dog goes nuts chasing it around to target, you watch Top Chef, everybody wins!) The built-in clicker is what really sells this for me, since it means you don’t require three hands for your clicker, target stick and treats. One small quibble: the clicker itself is pretty stiff and has a different give than a button or box clicker. However, once you adjust to that, it’s a great product.
So, happy shopping! How about you? What is on your dog’s wish list?