Dear Santa...

If you’re planning to get a little something for your dog this holiday season, here are some suggestions on popular toys, trends, where to shop, and what to avoid.  First, What rates high on the dog-favorite list these days?  At the top of the list, are interactive toys that don’t simply offer your pet something to chew on, but that make your pet solve a puzzle, or offer rewards for playing.  Interactive games and toys, can be as simple as a Kong®, which offers hours of fun and combats behavior problems when filled with food or treats (and FROZEN).  More complex toys are also increasingly popular as well. These include Nina Ottoson® games ( like the Dog Tornado or The Brick.   These toys offer your pet enrichment, hours of fun, and in many cases can help curb behavior problems.

My local area saw the opening of a new ‘big-box, corporate pet-supply chain’ in October.  Unfortunately, the management and staff at that store have been less-than hospitable to myself, my students, friends and colleagues.  Their selection of items is also lacking for such a big-name super store.  And so, having visited all local pet supply retailers, I HIGHLY recommend visiting one of the locally owned pet retail shops.  You will find caring, knowledgable staff and much more personable service, not to mention a better selection of carefully chosen higher-quality toys and foods.

I would like to caution you against some of the potentially dangerous toys & treats that are out there.  First and foremost is rawhide.  Rawhide in and of itself can be a nice treat for your dog in moderation.  Unfortunately, the majority of the rawhide that is sold in the United States is not made here.  In other countries, preservatives used in rawhide for dogs may contain arsenic.  Arsenic remains in an organism forever; it does not leave the bloodstream unless special medication is given.  Throughout your dog’s life, as he eats more and more foreign rawhide, the arsenic levels can continue to build up until a toxic level is reached.  There are no specific symptoms to watch for.  Arsenic poisoning can look like many other illnesses.  Many times, when a dog dies from arsenic poisoning, the cause of death appears to be something else.  If you buy rawhide, be absolutely certain that it is 100% made and distributed in the United States. 

Other hazardous dog toys include other animal products like pig ears and hooves.  Bones should not be cooked, this makes them brittle and cooking removes the enzymes in the bones, which make animals able to digest them.  Toys with squeakers can present a hazard if your pet removes the squeaker.  Tennis balls, or other balls that can fit entirely into a dog’s mouth can become lodged in the animal’s throat if caught in the air. 

Toys made for cats and small critters are not without danger either.  Fake mice often contain small plastic eyes that can cause a medical emergency if they’re torn off and swallowed.  Finally, the “Laser Mouse” cat toy or other flashlight-type games to play with your pet have a potential to create neurological problems for animals.  These problems develop out of frustration when a pet is never able to catch the light they chase. 

If you have any questions, please e-mail me at [email protected].

Happy (and SAFE) HOWLidays!
Michelle Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC

The Guide to Getting a Dog – Free on Dunbar Academy