'What I'd buy my dog for Christmas…'
How better to celebrate the joy that your pets bring you, than by giving them a festive treat? To help you find the perfect present, we've asked two experts for their top recommendations on fun, safe and enjoyable gifts for your furry friend. Plus, an animal nutritionist weighs in on the best edible end-of-year indulgences.
1A boredom-busting toy
Petplan vet Brian Faulkner's choice: Starmark Everlasting Fun Ball, £9.73 from miscota.co.uk
'Playtime is a great way to keep your dog's mind active, and can help reduce boredom or anxiety – particularly in colder months when outdoor time is restricted,' says Brian. 'That's why I think the treat-dispensing Starmark Everlasting Fun Ball makes such a great Christmas gift for your pet.
It's designed to hold a variety of treats or kibble, which makes it suitable for a range of dog breeds and sizes. It's extremely durable, but soft in your dog's mouth, and I especially like that it's made with virtually indestructible material and is free of potentially harmful substances, such as latex, vinyl and phthalates.
'The ball is ideal for making your dog use his brain to get treats, although it's equally good for an energetic game of fetch. It gets top marks in my book, as it'll provide hours of challenging play while keeping your dog mentally healthy, too.'
2A mind-stimulating puzzle game
Clinical animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar's choice:
Nina Ottosson Dog Spinny puzzle toy, £17.80 or
Dog Casino puzzle toy, £27.70, both from nina-ottosson.com
'Dogs are often cleverer than we owners realise,' Inga says, 'and a puzzle toy is a great way to give your pet some mental exercise. I really like the Nina Ottosson range, which is brilliant quality and offers a wide variety of food puzzle toys in easy, medium and hard levels.
I'd recommend starting your dog off with a simple puzzle at first, like the Dog Spinny. Your dog will have to work out how to spin and stop the toy's disc to find the hidden treats. Once he's mastered that, you could move on to the Dog Casino puzzle – most owners are amazed when their dog learns to open little drawers in the hard level!
As these toys mean you'll interact with your dog while playing, they'll provide hours of fun for you both and are a great way to strengthen your bond. However, to keep your dog from tiring of the games or losing interest, I'd advise keeping sessions short (10 minutes at most) and then putting the game away until the fun starts again the next day.'
3Edible festive treats
Clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler advises on those extra indulgences:
'It's normal to add a few treats to our own diets during the holidays, and the same often goes for our pets,' says clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler. 'And as long as your dog is healthy and isn't overweight (watch this video on how you can use his body shape to tell), it's perfectly OK to give him the occasional extra snack.
A 20kg adult dog should have less than 80 calories a day in treats, which is roughly the amount a one-inch square of cheddar cheese or some dental chews contain. I'd also recommend lower-calorie treats for overweight dogs. Try giving your pet small amounts (no more than a handful) of unbuttered air-popped popcorn, or fruit and vegetables like sliced apples, carrots or broccoli. Play toys or food-dispensing balls are also a great option for tubby pets, especially as most dogs love interacting with their owners for treats.
Finally, while the festive season can make it difficult to monitor all the foods that your pet has access to, you should always make sure products that are toxic to dogs are kept out of reach. This includes chocolate and ingredients such as xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic. Personally, I'd also advise steering clear of dried pigs' ears or similar chews, as these can be contaminated with bacteria and could cause your dog to become ill.'
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