Christmas Bites: What’s Santa Paws bringing?

Christmas and this season is all about giving! Here’s some of our favourite dog-products that Santa Paws might bring!

These are tried-and-true and things we use and recommend every day.

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The Boring Necessities

To your dog, these are probably pretty run-of-the-mill, but they can be essentials!

In general, when it comes to products in almost all categories, manufacturers will add some gimmick, marketing trick, or notion in an attempt to stand out with their own USP. But, that doesn’t make it better for you and your pet 😉
We like to understand that mechanisms behind the workings and how that applies to your pet’s behaviour, and to your wallet.

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Harnesses

While it’s great that there is such a range of harnesses available in every petshop and stockist, that can make choosing one that is safe and comfortable all the more difficult.

Look for harnesses that don’t restrict your pet’s movement, especially the front assembly (straps that cross the shoulder), when fitted properly. Make sure that straps behind the elbow don’t ride up into the arm pit too.

Harnesses, that have become very popular, with large panels that sit on the dog’s shoulders and back, make it more comfortable for the dog to pull, and most worryingly, are very easy for dogs to learn to escape from. I know they’re popular, but we don’t like them, and many dogs find them unpleasant to fit.

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We recommend a simple H or Y-front harness that’s properly fitted; like this one from Zooplus.
These harnesses tend to be the best tolerated in terms of fitting them. This clip shows you how to fit one using a stuffable toy so that, from the first time, the dog associates having their harness fitted with yummies:

If you feel you need more control in preventing pulling, you attach your lead, or add a second lead, to the ring at the front. Show here in this clip:

My favourite of the modern harnesses is the Blue9 Balance Harness for its versatility and fit, but recognise that they are expensive and difficult to get here.

Collars

Hands up, I have a total collar addiction and my dog has so many collars from all sorts of places that serve all sorts of functions, but really, most just look pretty!

Dogs in Ireland must be microchipped and wear a collar, with their owner’s details, in public.

My absolute favourite ID tags are the plastic tags from Identi-tag – you can fit lots of info on  there, they come in teeny sizes and big, they are super hard-wearing (most of Decker’s are almost 8 years old and are as good as new) and very reasonably priced. Love them!

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Collars that dogs wear for ID and that they wear most of the time should not be tightening, and just with regular buckles. When dogs are unsupervised, playing in groups, or confined, it’s best to use safety break-away collars or no collars at all.

Take care when using collars with snap buckles if you are attaching a lead and check how secure the buckle on your collar is regularly.
Some collars come with safety adjustments, like this in this clip here, with instructions for use and fit:

Martingale or limited slip collars are best for dogs with lots of coat, with narrow heads and with wide necks to prevent slipping. This is one of Decker’s martingales:

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Or using a collar, like a Sighthound collar, with a wider side, which also helps to prevent slipping or the collar coming over the dog’s head. This is one of Decker’s:

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In general, the wider the collar band, the more comfortable it will be, so choose the widest band you can find.

Lots of collars, to suit your dog and specifications, can be found in stores and online. Measure your dog’s neck with a string at the point you want them to wear their collar, and then measure that.

We love Swaggles collars; based in Ireland and GORGEOUS!

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Leads

Go for the simplest lead you can find – generally, you don’t need all the bells and whistles. I like a plain five or six foot nylon or leather lead, with a safe trigger hook. Nothing more, nothing less.

Simple leads like this 200cm lead from Zooplus are suitable for most dogs and owners.

I don’t like poo-bag carriers attached to the lead because they weigh them down and fall/hit the dog. But, choose biodegradable bags and always dispose of them appropriately; do not leave them on the street, hanging on a tree, in a ditch or anywhere livestock or wildlife might access them.

Swaggles do matching leads too!

Long Lines

I am a big fan of long lines but careful, safe use is required. More in this clip:

Long lines are just really long leads and most people do well with a 5m or 10m line – longer than that, becomes harder to manage.

You can get long lines in lots of places including online, e.g. Zooplus and in stores; I particularly like the Maxi Zoo range of long lines.

I much prefer long lines over extendable leads, but recognise that people love their Flexis! Here’s more on how to use them appropriately and safely:

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Coats & Clothing

Before we go any further with this one, it’s important to note that LOTS of dogs don’t like to wear coats, clothing and for some, even harnesses.

Clips that are often shared online, showing dogs freezing, having difficulty walking, refusing to walk or struggling to get away when a coat or clothing is being fitted or worn, actually depict a dog experiencing high distress levels.

Unless your dog needs a coat or clothing, it might be better to skip it, unless you can be sure they are comfortable with fitting and wearing.

Clothing that opens so that the dog doesn’t need to put their head through it might be tolerated better; these coats from Petstop open at the front so can be placed on the dog, rather than them having to pass through an opening, are reasonably priced and really good quality.

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Confinement

For safety and for training, some form of safe confinement will likely be required at some point in a dog’s life. The best way to prepare them for that, and help with other training exercises, is to confinement train. This means to make being behind a barrier a pleasant experience for a dog and to use confinement, particularly in crates, appropriately.

Get started with Crate Training 101 and then begin to build comfort with hanging out in confinement while you move about, with Level 2 crate training.
From there you can build comfort incrementally; working in a release routine can help you build duration in confinement, without a food toy or chew to work on.

Wire crates are often most convenient as they can fold away flat and are sturdy. To reduce the noise, wrap the tray in a towel or blanket and then add the dog’s bedding. Savic crates are great, long-lasting and sturdy; you can get them and a more budget friendly line from Jeb Tools.

Plastic travel crates are required for airline travel and can be handy, if you have the space. Zooplus offer a variety but if you are travelling, check the requirements before you purchase.

Soft-sided crates are great because they fold flat, are lightweight and quiet, but a dog who chews or is looking to escape will not be safe with this crate.

Crates are not for every owner or dog so where confinement, management and safety are required, gates and pens are a great addition.

Regardless, when confinement is expected, the dog will need help to learn to settle comfortably behind a barrier so spend some time on that too.

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Beds

Before you splash out on a new bed for your dog, do some research and ask your dog about their sleeping and resting preferences. See Day 10 of #100daysofenrichment for more!

There is a lot of variety in beds available for dogs, with lots of choices. I really like the Beddies range in Equipet and we have several, but there are lots and lots of awesome beds to suit every budget and every pet.

Don’t invest in expensive soft bedding if you have a chewer or a young dog but getting some VetBed will tie you over until you can splash out.

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For fun and brain games

Now we get to have some fun!

We talk a lot about Kong toys and the Kong range, so of course Kong toys will feature here too! They are available from all sorts of outlets and have toys that offer all sorts of different challenges. The full Kong range can be viewed here.

There are lots of stuffable options out there, and not just Kongs! Try K9 Connectables to offer different challenges and enrichment outlets with these versatile toys.

One of my current favourites is the Toppl; it’s pretty durable and is a straight forward solve for dogs who experience frustration or are new to puzzle feeding.

It can be transformed into a more challenging feeder by combining a small and a large size, but it’s still a great stuffable toy on its own.

My other favourite is the Qwizl – as a straight forward puzzle toy it’s great for kibble or wet foods, can be lined or frozen. I use it with dogs who have a tendency to gulp and swallow the last bits of long chews, like pizzles, so that it’s safer and easier to grip.

We get our Westpaw Zogoflex toys from one of our favourite outlets, Tough Enough for Charlie.

There is a wonderful variety of chews, both edible and non-edible, available and we have a whole LONG list here for Day 11 Chewing of #100daysofenrichment.

Stuffables can be some of the most versatile toys so investing in a couple of different types.

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While I love to use my dog’s regular foods in stuffable toys, treat foods feature too. I prefer to use real meats as treats like chicken, turkey or cheese. But, you gotta have some special treats too and I love these dried meats from RiRaw:

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When it comes to choosing toys, think what your dog might get out of it; what sort of behaviours will these toys provide outlets for? Toys are enriching for dogs when they allow them to practice natural dog behaviours like chasing, biting, catching, chewing, dissection, tracking; play allows for practicing these behaviours.

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Having a range of toys for your dog will allow them to try out different behaviours – your dog can’t be wrong, what behaviours they decide to use in toy or item manipulation is what they find enriching.

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Tug toys from Tug-E-Nuff offer a wide range to tempt most dogs, providing lots of opportunities for tracking, chasing, tugging and even dissecting. Decker LOVES an oversized ball to chase and bite like Jolly Balls:

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For literally hundreds of ideas and a ton of inspiration for choosing entertainment and fun for your dog, check out #100daysofenrichment and pick from challenges that you think you and your pet will enjoy.

All your dog wants for Christmas is YOU!

Certainly buy your pet gifts and items that make their life more comfortable and enjoyable, but, don’t forget that YOU are the most important part of your dog’s life.

Take time, lots of time, to just be and hang out with your dog, especially over the holidays when the chaos is swirling all around.

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If you are taking some time off from work and your normal routine this holiday season, maintain your dog’s comfort by trying to keep some features of normality in their day to day. It’s especially important to keep a little separation and alone time throughout the holidays so that when everything goes back to normal and you leave again, the bottom of their world doesn’t fall out.

Prioritise time to just be with your dog and make sure to go for lots of SNIFFS! rather than walks – making sniffing possible is the biggest gift you can give your dog.

Run through the Sniffing Saturdays from #100daysofenrichment and try to include a little sniffing everyday for your dog.

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