Valentine's day gifts for your dog

Show your canine companion how much you love them this Valentine’s Day with these heartfelt gift ideas that he will definitely roll over for.

Red hearts, candy and flowers can mean only one thing – it’s Valentine’s Day! Whether or not you have someone special in your life, why not include your dog in your expressions of love and appreciation? After all, he loves you unconditionally, no matter what, something we can’t always say about our family and friends.

The American Pet Products Association reports that more than nine million people buy Valentine gifts for their dogs. And according to the National Retail Federation, people spent approximately $681 million on their animals (not just dogs) for Valentine’s Day in 2011, as compared to only $310 million in 2008.

There are many ways to show your canine you care, but keep safety in mind when considering gifts. You might love receiving a box of chocolates, but chocolate is toxic to dogs, so strike that idea off the list right away. Other types of candy are also a no-no. And think about what your dog would really want. Flowers may be a traditional Valentine gift, for example, but they aren’t much use to your pooch, especially as some plants are poisonous to him. Look at life through your dog’s eyes, and choose something he’ll understand and enjoy.

Quality time is number one

“Dogs are social, emotional beings,” says veterinarian Dr. Clare Wilson, who is also a member of the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors. “Companionship is far more important than any material object. Interact with your dog, play with him or take him for a walk.”

On Valentine’s Day, weather permitting, how about treating your dog to some unleashed running time in a big open space? You get to play with him and he gets to enjoy nature and socialize with other canines. My own dog can’t wait to get to our local park, and once he’s there and unleashed, he literally runs wild. Ensure your park allows unleashed dogs, which means it should meet certain criteria such as being fenced in.

These gift ideas may sound overly simplistic, but dogs adore extra attention, activity and fun, so a day of play, interaction and exercise might be the Valentine present he’d love most. Spending quality time together is relaxing and good for both of you, and it doesn’t cost anything.

Tasty treats

Dogs love to eat! Some pet food and treat companies offer special gift boxes of treats for various holidays, including Valentine’s day. Be sure to pick a premium product made from whole food ingredients free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Alternatively, serve your dog some crunchy nutritious goodies right from your own kitchen:

• Carrots: Bite sized baby carrots or 2” carrot sticks make an excellent treat and most dogs love them. They’re healthy, low in calories and all natural.

• Baked canned dog food: Buy a tin of your dog’s favorite premium canned food, bake it, cool and serve. If your dog could read this, he would be begging you to try it!

• Popcorn: There is nothing harmful in popcorn, but don’t use any seasonings like butter or salt. Try your pooch with a few kernels and see how it goes.

• Green beans: This treat comes highly recommended by vets, especially if your dog is a bit on the heavy side.

• Frozen bananas: They make a naturally sweet treat that’s packed with nutrition.

Dr. Wilson also suggests a feeding toy as a great Valentine gift. “Instead of gobbling a meal in seconds, your dog can have hours of fun working for his food,” she says. A feeding toy will increase thinking skills and generate some rewarding fun for your dog. The Kong is the most obvious example of a feeding toy, and there are numerous other products on the market now too.

Pamper your pooch

Here are some additional gift ideas for your furry loved one:

• How about a cozy new dog coat or sweater, or a set of quality boots, to get him through the rest of the winter? There are all kinds of colors and patterns to choose from – for Valentine’s Day, consider red (for boys) or pink (for girls), or select a style that features a heart motif.

• Dogs love comfort and warmth, so you might consider a luxurious new dog bed, again available in a wide variety of styles, colors and designs. As with anything else, be sure to opt for a quality product.

• A snazzy new collar decorated with a heart pattern might be just the thing your dog needs. Buy a model that’s well made and will be comfortable for him to wear.

• Many people buy charms or crystals for their dogs’ collars. They look sharp and can have a healing effect – for Valentine’s Day, consider rose quartz, the stone of love. This particular crystal has a soothing, nurturing effect.

• What dog wouldn’t adore a new toy for Valentine’s Day? If you opt for something that’s heart shaped, be sure it’s made from durable materials that will stand up to a lot of chewing and roughhousing. A heart shaped decorative pillow is not a good choice for a dog toy.

• If your dog enjoys being pampered, treat him to a special spa day at the groomer’s. Or give him some special treatment at home with a good brushing, a soothing bath in natural shampoo scented with a drop or two of essential oil (think lavender, geranium or rose) and maybe a pedicure.

There are countless ways to let your dog know how much your love him this February 14th!