Dog Talk: Canine Claus – merry mutts

Beary loves his stuffy and adores treats. Photo: Joseph Chan

Christmas is a time of merrymaking and pet owners everywhere are set to make sure their furry friends have a good time too.

In terms of market, the figures are astonishing. In Britain, a survey by Co-Op Insurance revealed that 62% of pet owners are buying Christmas presents for their dogs and cats this year, spending some £873mil – that’s RM5.175bil.

In the United States, USA Today reports that 81% of pet owners buy a gift for their furry, with 27% spending US$25-US$50 (RM116-RM132) and 25% spending over US$75 (RM350).

There are no figures for Malaysia, but some of our dogs are set for happy holidays too.

Beary the Pom

Beary is a cheerful four-year-old Pomeranian who lives with his dad, Joseph Chan, an IT professional in Kuala Lumpur. Beary is cute – he knows it – and Joseph freely admits he is besotted by his furry friend.

“Beary has a million toys but a striped Tigger from Winnie The Pooh is his favourite,” Chan shares. “It was the first toy I gave to him, and he loves it the best.”

“When I am down, he brings it out and plays with it in front of me to cheer me up.”

Beary has a wonderful toy collection, including some popular We Bare Bears: Baby Bears from the cartoon series.

“I bought the one that looked like him, a brown one,” Chan muses. “It’s also popular but I think it won’t beat Tigger.”

The other thing Beary loves is snacks. He is a very active little dog but, like his fellow canines, he can also pack it away. And as he has his dad wrapped around his paw, he gets premium treats at Christmas.

“I plan to cook a slab of meat that he will love,” Chan says. “I make it with no seasonings, but there will be plenty of juices which he loves.”

The one thing they don’t do is dress up. “I tried a Christmas hat once and he just chewed it up so I won’t do that again,” Chan laughs.

If you are not a dog owner, but you want to buy a gift for a friend or grand dog, Chan recommends a stuffie.

“Dogs have sharp teeth, and so you want to make sure your present doesn’t have bits that come off and that are choking hazards,” Chan warns. “Go for a toy that can be carried but that isn’t so small that it is a choking hazard. Also, the dye must be safe.”

“If you can, look for toys made specifically for pets. Check pet shops and check labels.”

Tinkerbell the blind senior Schnauzer

Tinkerbell the Schnauzer is a happy-go-lucky type. She is now 15 years old, blind and deaf, but living a life of luxury with her mum, Michelle Woo, a natural wellness coach in Kuala Lumpur, and family.

“Tinkerbell’s best toy ever is a teddy bear,” Woo shares. “It is 7.6cm long and fluffy yellow. It has been hers all her life and Tinkerbell cuddles it to sleep and carries it with her. It is definitely hers and she doesn’t share it.”

Tinkerbell loves treats. Photo: Michelle WooTinkerbell loves treats. Photo: Michelle Woo

The precious bear is now rather ancient, so Woo is extra careful with it.

“I used to just wash it in the machine, but these days I do it by hand,” she confesses. “It’s too precious to risk.”

Many dogs will destroy their stuffy eventually but Tinkerbell is different.

“Many years ago she ripped the ear and some of the stuffing came out,” Woo remembers. “She stopped immediately and took care (of it) ever since.”

Buying an old dog a gift is thankfully simple. “We buy her treats,” Woo says. “We give her a tiny bit less for her meals and we hand over more treats. She loves that.”

In addition, the family are adding to the towel mats in the house. “She likes towel mats as they are tactile,” Woo explains. “They help her orient herself so she knows where she is and feels more secure.”

If you’re buying a dog a gift, Woo has a simple recommendation. “Treats! Dogs love them and if you are there for the day, it will help you connect. Natural cured or air-dried treats are always good. Just buy the appropriate size as little dogs have trouble with food that is too big.”

Blue the Akita

With her thick double coat and long nose, Blue is a classically beautiful Akita, the Japanese breed that is famous for it’s ancient lineage and its devotion to duty and loyalty.

Blue lives with Gina Loo, originally from Penang but now living in Northampton, England, and is having a grand time in the run-up to Christmas.

“Blue is extremely strong,” Loo shares. “If we give her a soft toy, she’ll rip it to pieces in just a few days – even the well-made ones with good sewing.”

“We bought her a few tough toys, specially constructed toys that are engineered to withstand good teeth and powerful jaws, and they lasted. But,” Loo laughs, “Blue didn’t like them! She loves to rip things, it’s her joy.”

Blue is eagerly awaiting his Christmas present. Photo: Gina LooBlue is eagerly awaiting his Christmas present. Photo: Gina Loo

Giving gifts is not about giving what you think someone needs but giving what you know they will love. As Blue’s other love is playing tug, Gina is focusing on that for this year’s Christmas gift.

“The tug-of-war rope is one of Blue’s best toys,” she shares. “We hold one end and she pulls the other. We found a café that is selling dog crackers with play ropes inside. We got one for Blue and we got one for Vinny, my sister’s English bulldog. That way, each dog has her own.”

Playing tug is a hot-button issue, with some dog lovers worrying that it can potentially be interpreted as an aggressive game. Also, the humans need to be careful not to jerk the rope as it can harm the dog’s teeth or jaw.

However, there are plenty of dog lovers pointing out that tug is a natural canine game that many dogs play with each other too, without the slightest quarrel. Dogs, after all, are not daft.

Blue definitely knows she is in charge and she lets her family know in the funniest way that she has the upper paw.

“Blue knows she is going to win, and she is strong,” Loo says, “So she teases by pretending to let go and then doesn’t. We pretend to be surprised and then we ask nicely for her to let go. When she finally does, she’s really happy.”

Loo buys her family-related dogs the same toys as Blue but when buying for strangers, she advocates classics. “Something squeaky always works,” she points out. “Dogs love toys that make sounds as they play. Just make sure that you buy the dog-friendly ones where it’s safe to swallow bits that are chewed off.”

So, if you’re running out today to buy a present for a furry friend, check out safe toys or go for simple treats. Merry Christmas!

Safe Dog Toys

There are no international guidelines for pet products, not like they are for little humans, so it’s up to consumers to read the labels and look out for known problems.

* Super easy treats. Always buy dried beef, prawn, chicken, liver and other easy treats from a pet shop. Even though the dog stuff looks exactly the same as the stuff on our supermarket shelves, it typically is different in significant ways.

This is because human food can contain compounds dangerous for dogs – like chocolate for humans contains theobromine that is a toxin to dogs, and peanut butter for people often contains Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic for dogs.

* Edible toys. Dog toys can be completely edible, like bones and chews made from sweet potato, crushed corn, or sometimes from pig ear or rawhide. Many are shaped like bones, slippers and festive themes.

With such chews, make sure it is sized for the dog. Little dogs can’t manage big chews, and big dogs need something large to paw and push about.

* Safe-to-swallow toys. Some chews are made from materials that will stand up to vigorous chewing and, also, should the pet break a bit off and accidentally swallow it, the material won’t harm a dog but simply pass through the system.

The best are designed to be digestible or to not cause obstructions. Super quality toys are made with a third safety factor: In the rare event that the dog swallows a piece and it causes a problem, the material is made to show up easily on a scanner or X-ray.

* Plushies for dogs. An ordinary soft toy may come with ribbons, strings, eyes or other parts that can be chewed off and ingested. Also, the dyes and the stuffing itself can be hazardous.

The safest thing is to buy a soft toy created especially for the canine market by a manufacturer specialising in dog toys. These toys come with double stitching, guarantees of what is used for stuffing, and will typically feature painted on eyes and tails.

If in doubt, run a toy past your vet first.

Adopt Me

Jelly is about four years old, spayed, vaccinated and healthy. This sweet little lady is gentle and a bit shy. She loves other dogs and is looking for a home with a forever person – and can also live with a companion dog.

Jelly is a sweet gentle lady dog looking for a home. Photo: KL Pooch Resort and RescueJelly is a sweet gentle lady dog looking for a home. Photo: KL Pooch Resort and Rescue

Interested adopters or sponsors, please contact Shannon and her team via text or call at 016-2333 647. KL Pooch Resort and Rescue (KLPR) is at Kalumpang, Selangor. Visits are by appointment only.

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