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There are two types of people in this world: dog owners who are so in love with their four-legged friends that they understand Barbra Streisand’s impulse to clone her dog — and everyone else. If you fall into that latter category, or are even, God forbid, a cat person, it can be tricky to find a holiday gift for the dog lover in your life that they’ll actually find useful. But even the most serious dog parents can always use some help finding unique, fun dog gifts that go beyond the regular old treats, toys, and travel accessories.
We spoke with 35 dog trainers, groomers, and owners about the best dog gifts they’ve ever received and their go-to gift ideas for dog lovers. Below, 68 of their favorites that are sure to please dogs of all sizes and persuasions (and those dogs’ parents). To make the list even easier to shop, we’ve arranged the items by category; click on any link below to jump straight to that section.
When former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson asked experts about how to exercise a dog indoors, three of them recommended these balls. Shelby Semel, the founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training, says they are a great way for dogs to burn off energy and get mental stimulation. The ones shown are small, but Amazon also sells bigger versions of the Ultra Ball for larger dogs.
Complete the gift with a Chuckit launcher, which designer Heron Preston uses “all day, every day at the park.” The plastic tool helps you throw farther, and allows you to handle the ball from an arm’s distance after it sloshes through a mud puddle: “The balls can get kind of gross, so with this thing, you don’t have to touch it,” Preston says.
If your gift recipient has nice possessions that a bouncy ball could topple, Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinary expert at Chewy, told Adelson about this soft dog toy that “doesn’t bounce or roll” but can still be thrown and used for tugging. It’s machine-washable and designed to withstand heavy play.
Sarah Fraser, the co-founder of Instinct Dog Behavior and Training in New York, likes to give younger or adolescent dogs what’s called a flirt pole, which she says 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.” For small-to-medium dogs, she likes this option from Outward Hound.
If the dog you’re buying for likes playing fetch, try the Hol-ee Roller, which Strategist newsletter editor Mia Leimkuhler and her rescue mini-schnauzer mix, Reggie, swear by. She describes it 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.” It also comes in a large size.
Trainer Andrea Arden says this is “one of the most perfect tug toys I’ve found.” It’s long enough, she says, “to allow for appropriate distance from the dog to your hand” but can be rolled up, making it easy to bring along on walks or to the park. The toy is sturdy and machine washable, and “dogs love it,” she adds.
“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 highest recommendation any dog parent can give for a dog toy.
Leimkuhler got this plush puzzle tree as a gift from a friend whose own dog was obsessed with it, and she has since gifted it to many of her other dog-parent friends. (It’s also endorsed by former Strategist writer Chloe Anello, who says her dog Rudy “loves it.”) “It’s a hit every time,” she promises, adding that the tree and its included stuffed, squeaky squirrels keeps her dog Reggie occupied for hours.
Kate Perry, a dog trainer and the author of Training for Both Ends of the Dog Leash, likes to gift “practical items that help stimulate the dog’s mind and help owners have a better relationship.” One of her favorite interactive treat toys for pups is the Busy Buddy Twist ’n Treat, which she describes as “great as a gift for new dog owners, and great for training a dog to work for their food.” Arden is also a fan of this “super durable” gift, telling us it’s “especially great for puppies who need every opportunity to burn off mental and physical energy.”
Perry, Semel, and trainer Lauren Camerini, the founder of The Peaceful Dog, all like the puzzle-feeders from Nina Ottosson. Perry calls them “Rubik’s Cubes for dogs,” while Camerini says they’re the canine equivalent of the “New York Times crossword puzzle.” With 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. In general, Camerini says, “food puzzles are great for city dogs because they provide mental enrichment, curb boredom and are just plain fun.”
Semel is particularly fond of Nina Ottosson’s Tornado: “It’s a great way to feed your dog slowly and keep them busy when you need them to self-occupy, and it’s good for mental stimulation! It’s easy to clean, not super-expensive, and entertaining to watch.”
Camerini and Lauren Novack, a consultant at Behavior Vets of NYC, both say they’ve told countless clients to pick up a snuffle mat, which delights dogs while helping them burn energy. “Dogs love to use their noses,” Camerini says, “and sniffing for hidden treats tires them out if you don’t have time for a long walk.” Novack, who uses the mat with her clients to facilitate doggie relaxation, adds that “sniffing makes dogs happy, and hiding treats in this mat is one awesome way to feed them dinner and get them using their noses.” A bonus, she says, is that “it’s washable and portable: You can take it anywhere.”
Writer Kelly Conaboy’s dog, Peter, is “obsessed with sniffing,” so she bought him this salad-bowl-shaped snuffle mat, which he loves. She hides treats in the folds of the “salad,” which keeps him busy for long periods of time. It’s a perfect gift for someone trying to work from home with a hyperactive pup.
“Cricket treats are higher in protein and more nutrient dense than beef or chicken treats, and they require fewer resources like land, water, and energy to raise (and cause much lower carbon emissions),” Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo says about these morsels from Jiminy’s Cricket, which are her silver poodle Uli’s favorite treats. “These are so effective that I’ve been using them to teach her tricks I never would have tried before.”
Texas veterinarian Sarah Ochoa previously told us that these calming dog treats help ease her dog’s anxiety. “I have tried her on many different brands, and these are the only treats that I have found that actually help,” she says. Some of the chews’ soothing ingredients include hemp, chamomile, and thiamine (also known as vitamin B).
Former Strategist senior editor Casey Lewis says these bacon-flavored CBD treats were a huge help for her parents’ elderly Labrador. “He would pant and pace relentlessly, and this would calm him down. But not in an overly medicated, tranquilizer way,” she says. All her family’s dogs love the flavors of Medterra’s treats, and though her own dog is generally pretty chill, Lewis plans on using these for their next road trip.
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer
Corsillo gives her poodle Uli these jerky treats, which she favors because “a lot of chicken jerky for dogs has sugar as the first ingredient, but these treats are one ingredient only.” The chicken variety Uli likes is low in stock, but the brand’s turkey jerky is made to the same one-ingredient, no-filler standard.
Or, if you’re not sure of exactly what type of toy or treat to give, Shirley Braha, the mom to a senior dog named Phyllis, recommends giving the gift of new treats every month. “The first thing that comes to mind is a BarkBox subscription because I feel like dogs are always running out of treats,” she says, “and high-quality treats are weirdly expensive.”
This slow-feed dog bowl helps dogs who eat their food 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.” For more puzzle bowls, check out our expert-recommended roundup.
The staff of dog boutique and groomer Releash NYC loves the clever design of this hybrid water bottle and bowl for active dogs. One worker explains how ingenious it is: “Squeeze it, and water fills the bowl for your pup to drink; release your grip, and the remaining water returns to the bottle.”
These collapsible dog bowls, also recommended by Halpern, are helpful for a traveling pup. “We tuck them into our carry-on bags and keep one in the glove compartment of our car,” she says. “The durable silicone is lightweight, easy to clean, and won’t tip over in a moving vehicle.”
Arden says that this set of licking mats is great gift for hyperactive dogs for many of the same reasons as a snuffle mat. Spreading a soft treat like peanut butter over its surface “creates a fun game where the dog is kept busy licking at the mat,” she says, adding that it’s a particularly great gift for dog owners whose dogs struggle with strangers and being alone. They’re also “very useful for helping a dog to become more comfortable with handling and grooming, or for working on alone time skills,” says Arden.
“As Reggie gets older, I want him to have a more supportive bed,” explains Leimkuhler. This memory-foam dog bed from Casper ranks high on her wish list, and it also took the top spot in our roundup of the best dog beds: It’s easy to clean and has a streamlined design that provides excellent orthopedic support for older dogs with achy joints. The bed comes in three sizes and three colors: blue, gray, and sand.
Leimkuhler also loves this bolster bed from Pendleton, which features the brand’s signature stripes and will keep your dog cozy during colder months.
“Every dog deserves a warm, snuggly, supportive bed,” Camerini says. Her favorite is this one from Orvis, which makes for a thoughtful gift because (for an extra $12) you can personalized it with the dog’s name. Camerini also appreciates that the design is “appropriate for every stage of a dog’s life,” and that the fabric is “durable and machine washable.”
For a less-expensive dog bed, we love this shag number. It is owned by no less than four Strategist dog parents, has more than 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, and is perfect for little dogs who love to cuddle and burrow.
Strategist associate director of e-commerce, Kiki Reginato, recently bought this affordable, sofa-style bed for her growing Labrador mix, Rusty. “He is a big fan,” she says, as is Reginato, who appreciates its machine-washable cover and orthopedic foam to cushion joints. Plus, the bed is just heavy enough that Rusty can’t “pick it up and throw it all over the house.”
Strategist contributor Zoe Denenberg learned about this “affordable, effective, and easy-to-use” brush from her mom, who had recently opened a dog-care and grooming franchise. While the ZoomGroom is extremely effective at removing knots and dander because of its flexible rubber bristles, it’s also basically like giving your dog a mini-massage, Denenberg writes.
“Nail polish from Warren London is a great gift for someone who wants to do a quick-drying, easy paw-dicure on their pups,” says Jess Rona, a dog-grooming expert based in Los Angeles.
If doggy nail polish is too flashy, Rona recommends “the Mineral Red or argan shampoo and conditioner by Iv San Bernard” as a more straightforward dog-grooming gift. 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 coat type.
For professionally groomed dogs whose owners are looking for a way to keep their doggy’s cut looking sharp between appointments, “the Atami H270 Vitamin Spray by Iv San Bernard is great for an in-between-grooming hydration spray,” Rona says.
Strategist contributor Chantel Tattoli recommends this gentle Earthbath shampoo, which she accidentally bought thinking it was intended for humans. It’s good for pets and people with sensitive skin alike: “Because the skin and coats of cats and dogs ‘absorb everything,’ an Earthbath rep explained, the company keeps its ingredient lists small,” she writes.
This animal wash from Aesop is a great gift for making bath time more luxurious, according to Leimkuhler. “I bought it to use on Reggie. It lathers easily, rinses away easily, and he does smell really good,” she says. “He smells like a status dog.”
“Someone at my local dog park told me about Mushers after we were talking about how neither of our dogs will tolerate snow boots, which is bad because our neighborhood is way too aggressive with the salt on the sidewalk,” explains Leimkuhler. You massage a little of the wax-based cream onto the pads of your dog’s paws, and it acts as a sealant against ice, salt, sand, and even hot pavement. Leimkuhler says it makes “a perfect little stocking stuffer.”
Cool dog parents will love this faux-leather jacket. Recommended to us by Logan Mikhly, a co-founder of the off-leash dog café Boris & Horton, it will give pups a dash of James Dean style. “We can’t keep it in stock,” Mikhly says, because the coat “looks good on many different dog body types” and is “very warm and comfortable.”
Carhartt’s canine-sized chore coat was recommended to us by three dog owners, including Yena Kim, the owner of stylish Shiba Inu, Bodhi. She says the coat is great for dogs who love to roll around in the mud: “When we get home, all I have to do is clean off his legs and paws, rather than give him a whole bath, which is a lot of effort.” Plus, if your gift recipient has their own chore coat, they and their dog can match.
Sturino recommends the barn coat from Canine Styles “if you want your dogs to look like they have more money than you do.”
Corsillo recommends pet-clothing company Little Beast, which makes a range of stylish dog sweaters and onesies. This cloud-pattern option is a great gift for pet parents who want their dog’s outfit to match their Lirika Matoshi sweater.
Novack says that her “short coated dog starts shaking if it hits 40.” For eight years now, she’s relied on this jacket (which requires placing a custom order with the lucky dog’s exact measurements) to keep him warm through the winter. In the years since she bought it, Novack says she’s “never seen a coat that fits better, or that so many dogs have no problems putting on,” explaining that “doggos don’t need to step into this — the coat simply goes over the head.” She’s gifted the coat to friends many times “and now they all swear by it.”
Anello describes this reversible puffer as “the best coat ever” — her dog Rudy “gets really, really cold very easily, but he has really small legs, so coat legs sometimes make it difficult for him to walk.” This coat fits comfortably and keeps him warm in the colder months.
In our roundup of the best dog coats, several people recommended Hurtta coats for keeping dogs warm in cold and inclement weather. The brand also “has the most inclusive sizing, and everything is adjustable on their coats,” says dog owner Nicole Sciria — she says that the Expedition Parka probably has the best insulation of any dog coat she has seen.
If you’re figuring out how to walk your dog during a heat wave, former New York Magazine newsletter editor Kelsi Trinidad uses this (frankly very cute) Canada Pooch sun hat to keep her dog, Lupita, cool.
For dogs that will tolerate footwear, Arden recommends this handsome twist on your classic Wellington boot. “They’re really easy to put on, supportive, and comfortable for the dog,” she says. The boots come in five colors (shown above), and the price includes four boots for your four-legged recipient.
“The best gift I’ve ever received as a dog lover was from my mom for my oldest dog, Buster,” says Fraser. It’s “a cozy, personalized blanket embroidered with his name on it,” which she notes is something both dog and owner can use. “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.” Leimkuhler seconds her recommendation, saying “it’s nice to have a blanket you can share that’s easy to wash.” We have recommended this L.L. Bean plush blanket before: It’s soft, durable, and can be personalized.
For a nice-looking leash that is also durable and functional, Annie Grossman, the owner and co-founder of School for the Dogs and Store for the Dogs, likes this ombré-dyed one from Found My Animal. The carabiner-style clasp can be attached to your dog in two places — collar and harness — for added safety. Plus, the leash, which is made from marine-grade rope, is strong enough to stand up to big dogs and adjustable, so you can sling it over your shoulder or wear it around your waist if your hands are full.
Perhaps you’ve seen this glamorous leash attached to the collar of Boobie Billie, the tiny Italian greyhound–Chihuahua mix with more than 200,000 followers on Instagram. Made by jewelry designer (and Strategist contributor) Susan Alexandra, Boobie Billie’s owner says it is a delightful way to gift a leash, but “make it fashion.”
“I want a collar and a leash to match me and my husband’s Chacos to take embarrassing family photos,” says Leimkuhler. Chaco’s collars and leashes are made from the brand’s signature durable webbing. Plus, Chaco takes customization seriously: There are more than 80 patterns to choose from. You can also embroider your pet’s name in 30 different colors, as well as select the buckle and stitching colors.
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer
This color-block harness is a “signature look” for Van Dusen’s dog Snips, who wears it “every day.” It features two rings for clipping a leash and a plush velvet-covered chest strap. “I think it’s so stylish, and I get many, many compliments when I’m walking her,” she says.
Rachel Jones, the owner of streetwear-inspired dog-gear brand Trill Paws, says these collars from Nice Beast are her go-to gifts for dog owners. “They are so vibrant and are always a fun talking point among dog lovers,” she says. “The products are all fabricated by indigenous women in small communities of Chiapas, Mexico, and each piece takes between two and three days to make from braiding to assembly.”
Perry likes this harness from Softouch Concepts as a gift for dog owners who are teaching their pups to stop pulling on the leash. “This harness is both humane and effective,” she says. “From my experience working with this equipment, I find it reduces dogs’ ability to pull on the leash by at least half.”
This harness may be designed for cats, but Corsillo says it’s the best one she’s found for comfortably securing her (cat-size) poodle, Uli. “Almost all the dog harnesses we tried in her size (extra small or extra-extra small) were made of thick material better suited for a more muscular dog.” But this lighter model, she says, offers a perfect fit, allowing Uli to comfortably wear it without any pinching.
For puppy owners (or adult dog owners looking for an upgrade) Mika Ito, the director of adoptions at New York–based shelter Animal Haven, told Strategist junior writer Kayla Levy about Wild One’s poop bags. They’re “biodegradable, extra thick, and come with a refillable dispenser that fastens to your leash or key chain for easy access.”
Anello received the Wild One leash set as a gift and highly recommends it: “It looks good and it’s easy to control,” she says. She appreciates that the harness has three rings to hook your leash, making it easier to adjust to different levels of pulling and to loop through the leash hole in a dog coat. Save 17 percent when you buy the entire leash, harness, and poop-bag set as a kit.
This canvas dog carrier from Wagwear took top place in Corsillo’s status-dog-bag ranking. As Perry Betts (the owner of a miniature dachshund named Thor) told us, “It’s sold at all of the best fancy dog stores in town, and I’ve see it among cool dog owners who want to avoid looking overly bougie with the Louis Vuitton carrier.”
“I would recommend a dog stroller from Pet Gear,” Rona says, for “older pups or dogs who have had surgeries or joint issues who still want to get out into the fresh air.”
This vacuum was the top–rated less-expensive vacuum for heavy shedders when we spoke to a bunch of dog owners and groomers about vacuums for pets. Tiziana Agnello, the founder of LoveThyBeast, loves it so much that she bought five of them — a few for the company’s three store locations and a couple for her home. She told us she prefers it over the more expensive Dyson cordless vacuums. “It’s the perfect industrial vacuum despite being so lightweight,” she adds.
Leimkuhler says a DNA test makes a great gift for any friend who has adopted a rescue dog: Knowing what breed or breeds your dog is can help you keep an eye out for health issues and choose enrichment activities that they’ll enjoy. “I also just want to know what he is, so I can answer dog-park inquiries and come up with a suitable portmanteau,” she adds of testing Reggie’s DNA. Embark will test your dog’s saliva and screen for more than 250 breeds using a database platform developed with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The company will also create a family tree for your dog and connect you to dogs with similar breed breakdowns.
For the human who loves their dog but can’t stand wet-dog smell, Adelson recommends this sunny orange candle she discovered at her vet’s office that made the place smell like an Italian apricot orchard. “It works not by filling the air with a new scent to overpower the stink,” she says, “but by releasing a blend of natural enzymes — the titular ‘exterminator’ — that breaks down airborne animal odors at a molecular level.”
Anthony Newman, a certified canine-behavior consultant who founded Calm Energy Dog Training, says his favorite dog-related item is “a gift I gave myself when I got into the business of dog training: a specially sized Bone Toggle Collar from Wagwear.” Newman wears the collar on his wrist. “It expresses my love for dogs, and it’s truly unique, with beautiful hand-stitched leather and brass,” he says. “Though I suppose you can also use it as an actual dog collar, as founder and designer Amy Harlow intended.”
Strategist contributor 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. “It uses a 1080p HD camera and two-way audio stream with built-in microphone and speaker to help you monitor your pet.”
If you want a pet camera that dispenses treats, Kate Jaffe, a trends expert at Rover, is a fan of the Furbo Dog Camera, which she calls the “perfect gift” for the dog parent who has an app for everything. “The Furbo lets you interact with your pet even when you’re far away, sharing treats, telling them they’re such a good girl, and snapping some photos, too,” she says.
For the literary dog owner, Strategist writer Erin Schwartz recommends Flush, Virginia Woolf’s 1933 dog biography that was a commercial success when it was first published and is now overlooked by most critics. (“I’m so glad that you liked Flush. I think it shows great discrimination in you,” Woolf wrote to a friend around the time of its publication.) Pair with the poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose cocker spaniel is the subject of Woolf’s book.
William Wegman’s Being Human is a great choice for the artistic dog parent. It features photos of Wegman’s beloved dogs dressed in high style. Per our friends at the Cut, “off set, when the Weimaraners aren’t wearing fur-collared trench coats, they splash along a lakeshore in Maine, where the photographer lives.”
If the dog parent is the self-help type, Sonia Nathan, the 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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