Thursday, December 10, 2009

Puppyrific presents

I have no kids and so, like many people out there, Christmas morning at my house is all about the dog.
Through the years, I’ve found that the packaging of the gifts can be as much fun for my dog as the toys inside them. I’ve also found that I can get my dog an abundance of gifts for a very small cost. So, now on my seventh year of dog-centric Christmases, here are my tips to make the morning a merry one for your four-legged pal:
Just one quick disclaimer — My dog has been trained to rip apart, shred and otherwise destroy things without eating them. If your dog is a shred-it-then-eat-it type-of-guy, some of these suggestions may not be healthy for your dog, as emergency room visits are often the result of dogs eating things they shouldn’t.

1) The (empty) 12-pack of beer gift.
No, I don’t allow my dog to drink alcohol. I have, however, found empty 12-pack beer bottle boxes to be perfect for wrapping. A quick stop by a thrift store or dollar store with anywhere from $5 to $10 will fill the box with those types of toys that your dog loves — you know, the cheap squeaky toys and stuffed animals that they rip apart in a matter of minutes and then you have to crawl around to pick up the remains and throw them away. But hey, it’s Christmas. Why not let your dog shred enough stuffed animals to make it look like it snowed on the carpet? The added bonus of the 12-pack of beer gift is that you can let the dog go nuts ripping into the box to get his toys because, who cares if an empty 12-pack gets shredded?

2) The you’ll-never-get-me puzzle gift.
I like to go all out on these gifts. Take a tasty, very smelly morsel — a stinky rawhide, pig’s ear or lamb’s ear or something of that sort, and wrap it up in an old but clean rag which you have no intentions of keeping. Wrap it up really good. Tie those knots as tight as you can. Maybe use a second rag to create a double layer, or even a third. Then, maybe put it in an old margarine bowl or something that you wouldn’t mind being ruined. Finally, put it in a box (another empty 12-pack?) and wrap it up. Your dog will be entertained for hours as he works his way through the puzzle to get the treat! (He may need some encouragement from you if he’s never worked his way through a puzzle before.)

3) The good-luck-getting-these-tennis-balls-out gift
My mother actually deserves the credit for this gift. Years ago, she began stuffing tennis balls in anything she could find — those long 12-pack pop can boxes, empty Capri Sun boxes, cardboard tubes, partially-ripped open stuffed animals, etc., etc. Just look around your house. My favorite is the partially-ripped open stuffed animal. Up the ante on this one by getting him a new stuffed animal, cutting a small hole that’s just big enough to squeeze some tennis balls inside of it and then give a few cursory stitches to close up the hole enough so that the balls don’t drop right out, but not so well-closed that you can’t see the tennis balls. When your dog finds the stuffed animal, point out the tennis balls to him and encourage him to get them out. He’ll love the challenge and the reward!

4) The where’d-your-present-go gift.
Who said all gifts have to be placed under the tree? Take one of your dog’s smelly gifts — bones work well for this, so do Kongs stuffed with peanut butter and rawhides, pig’s ears, etc. — wrap it and hide it. Unless you and your dog regularly practice games of hide-and-seek, I wouldn’t hide it too well. An obscure corner of the room, behind the magazine stand, underneath a desk or table or partially covered by a blanket are some good examples of dog-friendly hiding spots. Once your dog has opened all his gifts, tell him he has one more and get him all pumped up about it. You may need to help him look around a bit but don’t totally give away the hiding spot. Get him close enough so his nose can smell the bone or Kong, but let him find it on his own — his reaction will be worth it!

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