Holiday Gift Ideas for Pets and Their People – 2019

< A version of this article was published in the December 2019 issue of Downeast Dog News >

< Updated 30NOV19 >

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< A short link to a podcast on this topic – >

The holidays are upon us, and I have some holiday gift suggestions that will be beneficial to both you and your dog.

The gift of patience –Teaching and learning are a process that will occur throughout your life and your dog’s life. Your dog is not going to learn everything you want them to know in seven days or even a couple of months, no matter what some book with a hyperbolic title “guarantees.” Give your dog the time to learn what they need to know, rewarding each tiny step in the right direction. Yes, teaching a dog can be frustrating, but your irritation with your dog works against the teaching process. When I find myself becoming impatient, I find it helpful to read The misunderstanding of time by dog trainer Nancy Tanner [ FMI ]. Your dog, you, and those around you will all enjoy and befit from the gift of patience.

The gift of knowledge – The best assurance that you and your dog will have a long and wonderful relationship is by equipping yourself with current and accurate knowledge about your dog and their physical, mental, and emotional needs.  In their 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) noted: “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The report explains that a major reason for behavioral problems is erroneous information about pets and what constitutes normal versus abnormal behavior and appropriate training methods. Misinformation often comes from family, friends, neighbors, rescues/shelters, and even pet care professionals such as veterinarians and trainers. Please do not assume that everything you think you know about pets is good advice based on science. Give yourself the gift of knowledge by seeking education from an accredited professional who is committed to remaining current on what is best for pets.  [ FMI – ]. As a supplement to working with a professional, you may also want to review some of the recommended resources at this link. [ FMI ].

The gift of rewarding behavior you like – It seems to be human nature to focus on others, whether people or dogs when they are doing something we dislike. When the dog jumps on someone, we explode with attention towards our dog, often yelling harshly, and perhaps grabbing at the dog to get them to stop and to demonstrate our displeasure. However, in those moments when the dog is perfectly calm, lying, or sitting at their side, many people ignore the dog. They are seemingly oblivious to their dog’s behavior when they are not annoying them. Failure to reward this behavior is a missed opportunity!

Dogs and people have simple rules that determine how they learn. When we reward a behavior, we make it more likely to be repeated. Giving a dog a treat every time they sit will create a dog who sits regularly. Most people understand how learning works when actively training their dog but do not always see how it can apply to everyday life.

If our dog lies quietly by our side, many people will not even notice because the dog is not disruptive. Whenever our dog exhibits behavior we like, whether we asked for it or not, it is beneficial to reward that behavior. Failure to do so is a missed opportunity.

Having their dog lie quietly by their side while at an outdoor café was the primary goal for a recent student. We taught them how to reward this behavior when the dog did this in class. They continued to reward this behavior at home, and anywhere else, the dog would lie quietly. Within a few weeks, they had a young, exuberant puppy lying at their side in outdoor cafes.

The gift of choice – Our dogs are living, sentient beings with emotions very similar to our own. Some are extroverts, and many are introverts that do not enjoy every one. One of the greatest gifts we can give our dogs is a choice as to whether or not they want to interact. If your dog is not harming anyone or anything, and they choose NOT to interact with a person or another dog, please accept their decision. Interactions between a dog and others need to be consensual. This important concept of consent was written about by Jenny Efimova in a blog article entitled What My Dog Taught Me About Consent. Please read the article and learn the importance of giving your dog the gift of choice. [ FMI]

Have a happy holiday season, and please celebrate by giving the gifts of; patience, knowledge, rewards, and choice.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
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Shared Blog Post from Nancy Tanner – The misunderstanding of time by Nancy Tanner –

Maine Pet Care Professionals That We Recommend

Recommended Resources for People with Pets

Shared Blog Post from Jenny Efimova What My Dog Taught Me About Consent

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
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Podcast – Holiday Gift Ideas for Pets and Their People


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©30NOV19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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