There are two types of people in this world: dog lovers who are so in love with their four-legged friends that they, on some deep emotional level, understand Barbra Streisand’s impulse to clone her dog, and everyone else. If you fall in that latter category — or are even, god forbid, a cat person — it can be tricky to find a gift for the dog lover in your life that they’ll actually find useful. Though even the most serious dog parents could probably use some help in finding unique and fun dog gifts that go beyond the regular old treats, toys, and travel accessories.
That’s why I spoke with dog trainers, groomers, and dog owners about the best dog gifts they’ve ever received and their go-to gift ideas for dog lovers. Below, over 30 of their favorites that are sure to please pups of all sizes and persuasions (and dog parents).
Dog Toys and Treats
Sarah Fraser, co-founder of Instinct Dog Behavior and Training in New York City, likes to give younger or adolescent dogs what’s called a flirt pole, which is “like a giant cat toy. For many dogs, it quickly becomes their favorite — a fantastic substitute for chasing real squirrels. Plus, it’s a great form of exercise that doesn’t require the owner to do much.” There’s one for small-to-medium dogs from Outward Hound that she likes.
Fraser also likes this one for medium-to-large dogs from Squishy Face Studio.
If the pup likes playing fetch, Mia Leimkuhler and her rescue mini-schnauzer mix Reggie swear by the Hol-ee Roller, which she describes as, “a hybrid bouncy ball and chew toy, with big holes that make it easy for smaller mouths to catch and grip and fling about. The rubber is durable but not inflexibly hard, so errant tosses aren’t a breaking hazard, and the ball’s squishiness absorbs its own noise and shock, which is nice news for your downstairs neighbor.”
“We call it his ‘bear octopus’ and we hate it,” writes Alice Gregory of this multi-legged dog toy. “We’re not even sure where it came from, but Mickey, our toy poodle, likes it more than anything that is not a piece of outright garbage,” which is the best praise any dog parent can give to a dog toy.
Kate Perry, dog trainer and author of Training for Both Ends of the Dog Leash, likes to give “practical items that help stimulate the dogs mind and help owners have a better relationship with their dogs.” One of her favorite interactive treat toys for pups is the Busy Buddy Twist and Treat, which keeps dogs working for their food. “Great as a gift for new dog owners, and great for training a dog to work for their food.”
Both Perry and Shelby Semel, a canine behavior expert, trainer, and founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training, like puzzlelike toys from Nina Ottosson. Perry even calls them, “Rubik’s Cubes for dogs,” like this one. You hide treats in the compartments, then your dog has to sniff and slide the pieces out of the way to get them.
Semel is particularly fond of the Nina Ottosson’s Tornado. “It’s a great way to feed your dog slowly, keep them busy when you need them to self-occupy, and good for mental stimulation! It’s easy to clean, not super expensive, and entertaining to watch.”
If you’re not totally sure exactly what type of toy or treat to give, Shirley Braha, who’s mom to Instagram-famous Marnie the Dog, recommends giving the gift of replenishing treats. “The first thing that comes to mind is a BarkBox subscription, because I feel like dogs are always running out of treats, and high-quality treats are weirdly expensive.”
If you’re looking for a gift for a dog parent who likes to keep mess to a minimum, Katie Sturino, founder of the 12ish Style and dog-momager to Muppet, Pants, and Cheese has a suggestion. “The best gift I have gotten myself is the Neater Feeder bowls. I have four dogs and they spill half a bowl when they drink, so this has saved my floors.”
This slow-feed dog bowl helps dogs who eat their food entirely too fast. As writer Ashlea Halpern explains, “The unusual puzzle shape of these bowls forces gluttonous dogs to slow their roll. Sophie,” Halpern’s Chihuahua, “rarely gags when she uses it because she has to think about how to extract the food, as opposed to just blindly gobbling.”
Dog-Grooming Supplies and Accessories
“Nail polish from Warren London is a great gift for someone who wants to do a quick-drying, easy paw-decure on their pups,” says Jess Rona, dog-grooming expert based in Los Angeles.
If doggy nail polish is too flashy, Rona also has some recommendations for more straightforward dog-grooming gifts to keep your pet clean. “For a luxury shampoo and conditioner, I recommend the Mineral Red or argan shampoo and conditioner by Iv San Bernard.” According to the manufacturer’s website, Mineral Red is better for dogs with allergies or dry skin, while the Black Passion, which has argan oil and seaweed, is suitable for any type of coat.
Finish the look with a jaunty accessory. “I love a bow tie from the Worthy Dog that can clip on to their collar,” says Rona.
You could give a dog bandanna to the outdoorsy type who likes to take their dog on hikes. This one is nice because it does double duty, as both a nice accessory and a tick repellent, because it’s been pretreated with permethrin, a scientist-approved tick repellent.
Dog Travel Accessories and Gifts for Active Dogs
Perry, the dog trainer, likes this harness from Softouch Concepts for the dog owner who’s teaching their pup to stop pulling on the leash. “This harness is both humane and effective. From my experience working with this equipment, I find it reduces the ability for dogs to pull on the leash by at least half.”
“The best gift my mom ever received for me is my doggy carrier-slash-car seat the Sleepypod,” writes Norbert, a three-pound therapy dog with over 600,000 followers on Instagram. “It is super comfy, makes me sleepy, and she always knows I am safe inside. My mom puts me in my Sleepypod when we drive to do our therapy work.”
“I would recommend a dog stroller from Pet Gear,” says Rona, for “older pups or dogs who have had surgeries or joint issues who still want to get out into fresh air.”
These collapsible dog bowls, also recommended by Halpern, would also be helpful for a traveling pup. “We tuck them into our carry-on bags and keep one in the glove compartment of our car. The durable silicone is lightweight, easy to clean, and won’t tip over in a moving car.”
Personalized Dog Gifts
“The best gift I’ve ever received as a dog lover was from my mom, for my oldest dog Buster who’s currently 14 years old,” says Fraser, a dog trainer. It’s “a cozy, personalized blanket embroidered with Buster’s name on it,” and it’s a great gift for both dog and owner. “He loves having comfy blankets around to snuggle, and I love knowing that it’s a keepsake I’ll have for years and years to come.” We at the Strategist are not immune to the charm of a personalized gift, and have recommended this L.L. Bean plush blanket in the past.
You can also take the personalization one step further by putting the dog’s face all over your clothes. Semel once got leggings, personalized with her dog’s face all over them, from Puppies Make Me Happy, and she called them “the best gift, because who wouldn’t be thrilled to wear their adorable pup’s face plastered all over them?!”
For those who aren’t athleisure people but still want loungewear personalized with their dog’s face on it, there’s always this luxe, customized pet caftan. As the caftan’s designer, and the grande dame of Bravo’s Southern Charm, Patricia Altschul told us last year: “They combine crystal and pearl embellishments in a custom caftan featuring your very own pet (dog, cat, horse, bird, even fish) — mine is the one with Chauncey, my pug. It’s handcrafted in India, and can be worn from the beach to a barbecue to a cocktail party or black-tie event.”
Gifts for Dog Owners
For the human who loves their dog but hates the wet-dog smell, Strategist writer Karen Iorio Adelson recommends this funny-looking candle that she discovered at her vet’s office that made his office smell like an Italian apricot orchard. “It works not by filling the air with a new scent to overpower the stink, but by releasing a blend of natural enzymes — the titular ‘exterminator’ — that break down airborne animal odors at a molecular level.”
“My favorite dog-related item that I personally own is a gift I gave myself when I got into the business of dog training: a specially sized Bone Toggle Collar from Wagwear, an New York City–based doggy accessories boutique,” says Anthony Newman, a certified canine-behavior consultant who founded Calm Energy Dog Training. “I’ve worn it on my wrist now for nearly ten years, all day every day; it expresses my love for dogs and it’s truly unique, with beautiful hand-stitched leather and brass. Though I suppose you can also use it as an actual dog collar, as founder and designer Amy intended it.”
Writer Alison Freer uses this tiny camera cube to spy on her Chihuahuas while she’s at work. “If you’ve ever wondered what your dog or cat is up to while you’re away, you need a Petcube,” she writes, “which uses a 1080p HD camera and two-way audio stream, with built-in microphone and speaker, to help you monitor your pet.”
If you’re looking for a gift for a dogless dog lover, try Jess Rona’s book. In addition to being a top-notch dog groomer, she’s also the director behind the puppy-filled music video for Tegan and Sara’s “100x,” and has a killer Instagram. This book is filled with before-and-after glamour shots of well-groomed dogs. It also comes with a flip-book, so you can watch dogs get their hair blown back by a dryer.
William Wegman’s Being Human is a good book for the fashion-conscious dog parent. It features photos of his beloved dogs dressed in high fashion, though, according to our friends at the Cut, “Off set, when the Weimaraners aren’t wearing fur-collared trench coats, they splash along a lake shore in Maine, where the photographer lives.”
For a feel-good, photo-heavy read, Norbert, the dog, is here with some self-promotion: “My dad Mark Steines took dozens of fun photos of me that were published in a book. Each photo is accompanied by little lessons I’ve learned as a therapy dog and philanthropist.”
If the dog parent is the self-help type, Sonia Nathan, owner of Sonia’s Pet Grooming, recommends The Other End of the Leash by Patricia M. McConnell. “Better than any other writer, McConnell helps us appreciate that our relationships with our dogs are enriched by an understanding of ourselves — knowing how we differ from dogs and how we are comparable. It’s more than a ‘how-to’ book. It’s a ‘why-to’ book: why we behave in certain ways around dogs, and why understanding that will help us engage in a more gratifying manner.”
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