The Non-Tacky Gift Guide for Dog Lovers
Gift Ideas for Canines and Their Human Companions
The term "dog gift" might conjure up the image of cheesy dog paraphernalia and cheap, run of the mill squeaky toys. In reality, there is no reason a gift for a dog owner needs to be impersonal or tacky. In this guide, I've included a range of low priced, practical dog presents sure to please dog lovers, even those with the most discerning taste. All gifts in this guide are under $60, with the majority in the under $20 range.
If you have a beloved pet or have a dog lover in your life, you understand the bond people have with their animals. Whether you know a puppy aficionado, a doggie obsessed co-worker or a family member with a dog in their brood, you a dog themed present can be the perfect match.
Are you a dog owner?
I use one of these on my pup (she's the one in all the photos). It's amazing how much hair comes off such a small dog.
A Practical Dog Gift Basket
This idea works well for someone with a new puppy or dog, but it can easily be tweaked to work for anyone with a dog. Assemble a useful, inexpensive "gift basket" for pet owners with practical items such as:
- Dog Shampoo - I use Kong brand puppy shampoo on my now 2 year old dog. It smells fantastic and makes her coat super soft.
- Pet Wipes - These are handy in the car, or next to a back door when the pup's paws get muddy. Alternately, baby wipes work just as well.
- A Grooming Brush - My dog has short hair with an undercoat and the Kong Zoom Groom works really well to curb the shed. If you're okay with spending a bit more, the "Furminator" is supposed to be fantastic.
- Lint Roller - These come in handy if the dog in question is a shedder. Trust me.
- Metal Water Bowl - You can never have too many water bowls. They can go in different parts of the house/apartment or can be kept at a family or friend's house that the dog frequents. Metal bowls are sturdy, cheap and classic dog gifts.
- High Quality Dog Treats - Be careful with this one. Some dogs have special diets and some treats are not good for dogs. Doggy Chicken Jerky is a good option, just make sure you are buying a brand that is not subject to a recall or is suspected to be dangerous (treats made in China are of particular concern for many dog owners).
- Tennis Balls - The classic dog toy. These never get old. If the dog is a puppy, put a tennis ball in a tube sock and tie it off (it will give the pup something to grab on to with it's tiny mouth). If it's a small breed, buy racquet balls or smaller "SqueakAir" tennis balls. Be careful with getting a smaller ball for a larger dog though - vigorous play can lead to choking.
They squeak, they are tennis balls, and they come in multiple sizes.
"Walking In Circles Before Lying Down" is an light novel about a young woman who, all of the sudden, has the ability to hear dogs talk. Think of it as a modern version of Dr. Doolittle. It's a super easy read and is super endearing. It's also quite funny.
I own or have read each of the three books I've recommended here:
- Walking In Circles Before Lying Down - A Novel
- Why Does my Dog Act That Way? is a non-fiction book that explores dog behavior and the history of the domestic dog. It's a very interesting read for inquisitive, scientifically minded folks. I actually was given this book before I even owned a dog.
- Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds is a fantastic reference book for a friend or family member who wants a dog (but doesn't know what kind they want yet), or for those who want to learn more about the different breeds out there. It is a great book for purebred enthusiasts, but is also an intriguing guide for those with a mixed breed dog looking to identify different breed characteristics in their own mutt.
"Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds" is a fantastic reference book for a friend or family member who wants a dog (but doesn't know what kind they want yet), or for those who want to learn more about the different breeds out there. It is a great book for pure-bred enthusiasts, but is also an intriguing guide for those with a mixed breed dog looking to identify different breed characteristics in their own mutt.
Dog Movies for Adults
I've Cut Out the Cheese!
If you're looking for a dog themed gift, DVDs and BluRay discs are great for families and singles. These 12 dog movies are my personal favs. With the exception of Best in Show I'd wager that these movies are good for children and families. That said, Best in Show is my all time favorite dog movie and all time favorite Christopher Guest movie, I just think the humor is a bit too mature for younger kids. It's a great dog lover gift idea for co-worker or friend.
Disclaimer: Some of these movies are a bit sad and some have elements which may not be suitable for very young children. Of course, parental guidance will be at the sole discretion of parents and guardians:
- Marley and Me - A very popular movie (and book) featuring Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson. It is funny and light, with a touch of weepies.
- Turner and Hooch - The 80's Tom Hanks classic. It also features Mr. Carl Otis Winslow (from Family Matters). Some weepies in this one too.
- Best in Show - Zero weepies.
A faux documentary on "show dog people." It's my favorite Christopher Guest movie by far.
Kid Oriented Dog Movies
For Families with Young Children or Those That are Young at Heart
NOTE: I couldn't bring myself to put "The Fox and The Hound" on here because that movie breaks my heart. I am misting right now just thinking about it.
- Homeward Bound - The Incredible Journey - I'd wager that most 80's babies identify heavily with this movie. It's live action and features the voices of Michael J. Fox, Sally Field, and Don Ameche.
- Milo and Otis - A kitten and a pug make friends on a farm. Aw. No people at all in this one and it's all live action.
- Bolt - A computer animated Disney release that is entertaining for kids and adults. Features the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus.
- Lady and the Tramp
A SUPER classic Disney flick about the unlikely pairing of a Cocker Spaniel lap dog and a street-wise mutt. A family favorite!
A DIY Pet Gift Idea
Cheap, Thoughtful and EASY
If you're low on cash or just looking for something different to give to a dog owner, consider buying a Kong dog toy and packaging it with a few recipes. Recipes? Yes, recipes. Kongs are funny looking dog toys that are great for chewers. They have a hollow center specifically made for stuffing. Kong sells there own variety, but you can also take a note from animal shelters who make their own fillings and freeze the whole thing. Some common Kong Stuffing ingredients:
- Chicken or Beef Broth
- Peanut Butter
You could even buy some of the (non perishable) ingredients and throw them in a gift bag with the Kong toy.
The Gold Standard of Dog Toys
Kongs come in a variety of sizes and "chew levels." The red is the original, while the black one is for super chewers (like Pit Bulls or Jack Russell Terriers). They also make a softer one for puppies.
Buying a Puppy as a Gift
NO! Don't do it!
Well, you can do it. If you're a parent and you're buying one for your own family. Or, if you accept full responsibility for the little booger should it's intended recipient not want your doggly gift. This means, you're okay with keeping and raising and training and LOVING this dog for it's whole life, which can be 15 or more years. Puppies just aren't appropriate dog lover gifts.
I have a friend that bought a puppy for a guy as a gift. He didn't want it and she ended up keeping it for herself. This story had a happy ending, but I know this isn't always the case. Dogs are not gifts. They are intelligent, loving and (sometimes) needy little creatures. No pet should be bought on a whim. Animal shelters are over crowded and pets are euthanized every day because they don't have homes. Furthermore, if you are looking into buying a dog or puppy, consider going the animal shelter / dog rescue route. There are so many lovely little wiggle butts in shelters looking for homes. If you want a specific breed, know that there are rescues that specialize in just that. There are also rescues that specialize in puppies and pregnant dogs should you have your heart set on a puppy.
I'm stepping off my soapbox now.
Dog Training as a Gift
Give the gift that keeps on giving. Dog Training is a valuable tool for dog owners, but it is also a fun way to bond with your animal. If the dog is a puppy, training is indispensable. Older dogs can learn new tricks. Agility classes, The Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC) and straight up Obedience School are good options.
If you are considering going this route, buy a gift certificate from a training facility that the owner is familiar with (or has used before). You also want to make sure that the dog owner actually wants and will follow through with the training. This can be tricky, so it's probably best to save a gift like this for someone you are very close to.
Dog Training Book
If you don't want to actually buy someone training for there dog, why not go the book route? Dog training books are great for new dog or puppy owners, or even those with an older canine. They are super cheap, but an unconventional present for sure!
This is a really cool dog training book for pups of all ages. It's great for new dog owners and veteran dog owner alike.
Dogs need blankets? Well, mine does. I suppose "need" is the wrong word. My dog loves soft and will lay on the softest thing around her. A lot of dogs do this to stay warm. Others are just spoiled rotten.
If you're giving one as a dog present, I recommend buying one of three kinds:
- A Car Blanket - Something that can be used to cover and protect seats from dirt, hair and dog bum. They're so much nicer than an old towel.
- A Ridiculous Soft Blanket - good for the pampered pooch or naturally lean dogs that get cold easily (like a Greyhound).
- A Doggy Pad or Fleece - a good blanket to have for lining a crate, or covering a piece of furniture that the dog likes to lie on. Dogs can even be trained to only lie on one particular blanket. Nuts!
My dog loves these kind of down alternative throws. They have become the default "dog blanket" in our house.
Why Not Go Handmade?
Whether purchasing on Etsy, at a craft fair, or from a local artisan, or making it yourself, giving a handmade gift virtually guarantees the gift will be unique. Here are my top 4 choices for handmade dog gifts:
- Handmade Dog Bowls
Etsy has a ton of pet / dog / cat bowl options. They come in a variety of colors, materials and sizes in just about any price point. Many can be customized with a pet's name. As I had mentioned previously, you can NEVER have too many bowls for your pet. A handmade dog bowl is an easy, no-fail gift that just about any pet owner would appreciate.
- Handmade Dog Sweaters
I love dog sweaters. Obviously, clothes don't really make sense on every kind of dog. Bigger dogs (especially those with thick coats) or dogs in warm weather don't need to be wearing sweaters. Dog sweaters work very well for toy breeds such as Chihuahuas, Yorkies or Dachshunds. They are also good for medium sized dogs with thinner coats and slender bodies, like Whippets. Sweaters keep these guys warm during the winter or on nippy evening walks.
- Handmade Dog Toy
We bought a homemade Monkey Fist Rope Toy for Penny from Pike's Place Market in Seattle while on vacation. It ended up being her favorite toy. They have some rope toy options on Etsy as well if you can't make it out to Pike's just yet.
- Handmade Dog Collars
I really want a leather dog collar for my little nugget, but every pet store I go into has sub-par options. Enter Etsy. I found a few great shops that sell handmade leather collars that can be personalized with the dog's name. Be sure to order the right size for the dog's neck circumference.
As much as I would like to believe that everyone wants a painting of their dog, it's just not so (I wouldn't turn one down, FYI). "Underwater Dogs" is a much safer choice for dog lovers with an appreciation for the arts. It's a really cool book with such amazing photographs in it. I highly recommend it.