Categories: Lifestyle

Christmas has gone to the dogs

FURRY FRIENDS – Staff of long time St. Albert pet store Mr. Pets (formerly Paradise Pets)

Pet owners know very well that their furry critters are part of the family. How many of us have taken or received a Christmas card with the entire family gathered around the festive tree, including Fido in a sweater and antler headband?

According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners will shell out billions on their pets this year, with one survey showing that 95 per cent plan to give their pet a Christmas present, spending an average of $36 per critter. Holiday statistics show that over half of pets will get a Christmas stocking this year. A total of 34 per cent will get a special pet-safe Advent calendar, while 29 per cent will get a Christmas card from their humans. A small number even write letters to Santa Paws, says the survey.

Pet stores in St. Albert cater to that majority of pet owners who want to include a special something under the tree for the family pet(s). At Pet Valu, shelves are stacked with dog and cat goodies. There are stockings, gift baskets, plush toys, tree ornaments and holiday sweaters for dogs and cats. For those with small animals like guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters etc. it’s mostly small treats (yogurt drops, honey/seed sticks, etc.) or a big bag of hay.

At this time of year, calendars are always popular and the 2017 Pet Valu edition features the winners of the annual casting call contest. The donate-what-you-can calendars are available at the till, with all proceeds going to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. Past calendar donations have allowed Pet Valu to sponsor 33 Dog Guides teams across Canada, helping Canadians with disabilities across the country.

For canine Christmas gifts, the sky is the limit. Products include dog beds, chew toys and de-shedding tools, stain and odour products or puppy training pads. Pre-stuffed stockings of treats and toys are especially popular, according to Mr. Pet’s manager Kelly Weins. Busy shoppers can just grab a small, medium or large stocking full of goodies that’ll satisfy the dog come Christmas morning.

“The gift baskets and stockings are a big hit – balls, toys, food chews and treats – and they’re inexpensive,” she said.

Weins said Mr. Pet’s offers pet boarding and training classes, an excellent gift idea for those with a new pup or young dog. The store offers a $169, six-week behaviour-training class for dogs (three months and older) and their owners that is ‘well worth the money – it can fix a numerous behaviour issues”, said Weins. “It’s a great gift idea.”

Offering boarding (very popular during Christmas and winter holidays) and day care, along with behaviour and obedience classes, K9 Awareness & Spot On K9 Treadmills Inc. is a way to keep medium and larger dogs well exercised and socialized during the cold weather months. Owner Kaytie Stack said her business is busy with regulars and drop-in pets, all get exercise time on special dog treadmills, “something different for fun, to keep dogs amused,” she said.

“Every dog is individual, so some take to the treadmill easily; others a bit longer. But we average 40 dogs a day, and they all get a good walk or trot. We give unlimited advice and direction too, if there are behaviour or weight issues for the dog.”

“It’s about building awareness and a relationship. Sometimes behaviour issues happen because of a lack of exercise. We encourage those with pups, or young dogs under one year to get the tools to manage behaviours,” she said.

K9 Awareness offers multi-class day care packages, another idea for those looking to give the dogs in their life a gift with long-term benefit.

As for buying a pet for Christmas, common wisdom says no, according to Weins. “Pets are for life, not just for Christmas – it’s a group, family decision and has to be well thought-out, not spur-of-the-moment. “We have a conversation with potential pet owners, and educate them about the responsibility of pet ownership.”

“We tell buyers to come in after Santa is gone, when it’s quiet after Christmas – all the hectic, visiting, travelling, extra food and people are gone and life is back to normal – then come in to adopt a pet.”

Lucy Haines: Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.