By Nancy Carlson • Columnist • 

Doggone good gifts

I don’t know how many shopping days will be left before Christmas by the time this column makes its way into the paper, but for sure, not very many. Which means the time left to find your pooch the perfect gift is alarmingly limited, so to be helpful, this week’s Happy Tails will be your fount of information on the best stuff made for your dog in 2012.

For this, I will not rely on my own expertise but instead will use the advice from Bark magazine’s gift guide in the Winter 2012 issue, and Dog Fancy’s picks for best dog products featured in its December 2012 issue.

I will preface this shopping showcase by stating plainly that, Christmas or not, your dog does not need any of this stuff. You already spend plenty of money on grooming, quality food, leashes, training, treats, chews and toys, and what you haven’t spent, you could sock away toward that large vet bill that could be lurking just around the corner. Or give the money you didn’t spend on your dog to Yamhill County Animal Control or Homeward Bound Pets, which will make sure it gets used for some dog who really needs it.

Having said this, however, it is fun to have at least one package for your pooch under the tree, or for people who are hard to buy for, a gift for their dog is a sure winner. Even as I advise against it, I do totally get this. Our pets have become treasured members of our family, and for some of us, we could no more give Poochie nothing at Christmas than we could fill our children’s stockings with coal. Just remember that your dog is going to enjoy the holiday about the same way he enjoys every other day of the year.

Bark magazine’s” Holiday Gift Guide” somewhat shamelessly suggests a subscription to Bark magazine as an excellent Christmas present. This is obviously not intended for your dog, as I am thinking Poochie won’t read it. But it is a good gift for a dog-loving friend or family member and it does have some wonderful articles about caring for your canine, which I suppose might improve your dog’s life overall.

More direct-to-dog gifts include treats and chews from Superior Farms Pet Provisions, made from either lamb or venison. These will set you back a bit— a 5-ounce package of lamb liver treats costs (on sale) $9.59, which, if you do the math, means about $30 a pound for a cherished consumer who would just as happily eat cat poop. The lamb treats are probably healthier, however.

Perhaps more practical are products from Mutt Mitts, which has creatively designed a pet poop scooping product that fits your hand more like a glove than an ordinary plastic bag that you scrounged from the grocery store. I, myself, have not evolved aesthetically to the point that I care how much the plastic receptacle I’m using to clean up dog poop feels on my hand — as long as there are no holes in it, I’m happy. But perhaps your sensitivities are more heightened than mine. In which case, a holiday package of 100 Mutt Mitts pooper gloves will cost $14.95.

Earthdog now has collars and leashes made of hemp in 22 “decorative” styles, and also hemp dog beds and blankets. These are all a bit pricey, but no worse than many other products made of less eco-friendly materials, and 10 percent of all Earthdog profits go towards spay/neuter programs for rescue dogs. I have never bought my dogs a hemp bed — they mostly all sleep on my bed. But Earthdog makes good products, so if Fluffy is having any problems with insomnia, this might be the way to go.

Bark magazine, as you may already have figured out, is based in San Francisco, which may explain why some of its recommendations seem a little to the left of wacko. So I turned to Dog Fancy’s “Best Products of 2012” for more practical guidance in canine gift giving, and I was not disappointed. The first product listed was The Amazing Mat, which allegedly is as good as wiping your dog’s paws after every encounter with mud. I have to confess — I went online to check these out and may order one myself. It may not hold up to the advertising, but considering I have 20 mud-filled paws to deal with and it’s half-price at the moment, it might be worth a try.

The next product might actually be one that your dog will love, at least come summer. The Frostybowlz Deluxe, from Talega Products, has a freezable, dishwasher-safe core that you insert into the Frostybowlz dish to give your dog ice cold water that supposedly stays cool for 14 hours. It also looks like it would be pretty hard to tip over.

Check out the Chuckit Ultra Ball, too. As large as a soccer ball, you can kick it (in case your arm is tired of throwing tennis balls) and according to the manufacturer, it has high bounce, high buoyancy, high visibility and high durability. Might be a bit out of Fluffy’s league if she’s a Chihuahua, but for medium and large dogs, it could be a lot of fun.

Finally, for the two-footed, pet-loving homeowner on your shopping list, Dog Fancy recommends the Total Floors Pet Vacuum from Bissell Homecare Inc. According to Katie Ingmire, Dog Fancy associate editor, it sucks up dog hair like a champion and includes an odor eliminating filter, as well. I may have my husband put this on my list.

In closing, let me acknowledge that we all love our dogs, and most of us probably already spend a lot of money on them. The above gift suggestions are fine, but you can always just take your pooch for a walk. He’ll enjoy that every bit as much, and it won’t strain your holiday budget at all.

From my dogs to yours, Merry Christmas!

Nancy Carlson can be reached at

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