It's that time of year...
You're thinking of just the right gift for each and every one of your family and friends. We're all bound to forget a few names in the chaos of the holidays, but plenty of us wouldn't dare overlook our favorite four legged family members. The furry, excitable, and lovably clumsy pets that brighten our days with their wagging tails and chill down our nights with their inevitable walks. Whether you're a dog person or a cat person we both know that the plastic stocking full of chew toys is the pet equivalent of a Holiday fruitcake. Obviously impersonal, easily forgettable, and full of plasticy multicolored junk! So if you've had a good year and you want to pamper your pooch or give your feline a feliz navidad... Read on!
Be sure and click below on the title of each product to be taken to a video slideshow of that piece.
GROOMING AND CLEANING
Need to know: Comes with two batteries and a charging base so you'll never be without power. 5,500 strokes per minute and 5 in 1 adjustable blade mean this is fast, painless, and precise for Fido. Stayed very cool and quiet during operation which is a huge plus to keep a calm pooch. A little over one hour per battery but with the dual battery you can always have one charging in the base while using the other.
Need to know: This model is much more expensive than the model from Wahl Animal. Blade speed is less at 3800 and the kit only comes with one battery. You can purchase additional batteries and charge them in the base for the same effect as the Arco SE but for an extra cost on an already expensive piece. Much heavier than wahl model but also fuller in the hand. This feels like a dump truck to wahl's sports car. Large and slow, but steady and powerful.
Need to know: NOT INTENDED FOR CATS. Each of this Etsy artisan's shampoos are handmade in small batches without sulfates, chemical preservatives or artificial fragrances. Every ingredient is animal safe and the essential oils inside have natural benefits aside from the great smell of your pet's coat. The Rosemary oil for example is a natural flea repellant. Dog's fur felt lush and smelt great even after a full day outside. The smell left behind reminds me mostly of pine needles with a bit of lemon.
Need to know: You can't understand how great natural dog products are until you actually smell them. We are all used to the artificial sunscreen smell that the most dog shampoos leave behind (I get a headache just thinking of it) The No-Rinse Shampoo is just as it says, no water is required. It foams up in your hand and the smell of lime and verbena is beautifully subdued. It won't work miracles but it's a great tool to freshen up your pet. The odor neutralizer can be used on fabrics like those in pet bedding or directly on your pet. It is scent free to remove odor but to my nose it almost smells like baby powder, very subtle though. Finally the doggie deodorant is a fresh and bright green smell.
PET ID TAGS
Need to know: Available in different shapes with different fonts. This is the “Hi my name is” getting to know you sticker for your dog. Very playful and fun. A lot of positive attention from this one and very well made. All metal backing with a candy gloss resin coating over the graphic. Room for a name and phone number
Need to know: Each design is layered and riveted for an awesome modern industrial look. The artist uses different tones of metal to compliment the design. There is a very diverse lineup of designs available for purchase including everything from superhero logos and a sheriffs badge to the logo for the Wu Tang Clan. The custom two tone Batman logo that I received for review is immaculate. Artist is also very flexible to customize your piece as you'd like it. Room for name and phone number on front or back.
These have a satisfying weight to them but they might be a bit much for smaller dogs. They are all hand stamped from jewelery grade American lead-free pewter. They all have 3D designs and textures that make each piece unique. Available in different sizes and even colors. For the color, Aaron seems to almost stain the metal. It almost looks as if the paint was airbrushed on, I really like the effect. The coolest part is on wherever you've added letters the relief is filled completely with color. The quality of these pieces is well worth the price, this one's a bargain.
MISC. PET GADGETS AND GOODIES
Need to know: larger than expected. If you have a small dog or cat they might be annoyed enough at the size to spend all of their time trying to scratch it off. Video was very good for a novelty product, sound was iffy. You need to seriously consider the way your pet moves before purchasing a pet camera. If your pet is quick, jumpy, and moves in spurts, watching a video like this can be like riding a roller coaster. 4Gb of built in memory promise 2.5 hours of playback. The memory is not expandable which was disappointing. 736X480 resolution, rechargeable battery, and night vision built in. Record in standard or motion detecting modes.
Need to know: Dogs have stronger senses. They'll sniff out drugs, bombs, even cancer. They have noses that save lives, so it makes sense that their hearing is probably a bit better than ours as well. iCalmDog has the science to prove that last claim. The team behind iCalmDog includes musician Lisa Spector and sound researcher Joshua Leeds. Joshua has study the therapeutic affects of sound in humans and together with veterinarians, behaviorists, and trainers they've developed a program specifically for dogs. The product itself is a wireless speaker about the size of half a soda can. The rechargeable battery lasts about 6 hours on a charge in my testing. The included cord plugs into any USB port to charge. You can buy the microSD card based training music from the site's store. They have specific music for helping dog's conquer fireworks, city sounds, thunderstorms, etc. Each of those is basically classical music standards with underlying real life unsettling sounds mixed in. My dog tends to worry himself when we're gone so the idea of consistent noise seems like it might do well to distract him. A couple weeks of testing didn't seem to do much to his temperament, but perhaps he's not made for the therapy. If you're at your wits end, this might be worth a try.
Need to know: App controlled video camera with decent low light video. You can control the motion through the app from anywhere. You can play lullabies from a preset menu as well as send a message with your own voice. App was always choppy in my testing. Even on Wi-Fi, the signal was in and out. I would find nice moments of clarity, even at it's clearest though you won't see that much definition in the picture. Sound activated notifications are a great idea but the feature seemed to be a bit too sensitive. Overall, picture quality needs to be better for the price you'll pay. Shop around, there are better options for the price.
Need to know: One of a kind digital paintings. The artist, Iain McDonald, uses a more modern media to “paint” your pet's portrait on a screen. You send pictures of your favorite pet moments and they are magically transformed into a stunning work of art. You'll be sent a set of files that are sized and formatted for printing on canvas. You then simply upload the files to your printing service of choice (next listing is a great online option) and voila! The detail of the brush strokes and vibrant color were more than I expected. This is modern art with your pet as the star!
Need to know: There are so many choices for printing today. The one hour photo of yesterday is the one second photo of the internet age. We can walk into any drug store with an SD card and leave 5 minutes later with 300 prints and some beef jerky. Of course, there are always varying levels of artistry within any service. Mypix2canvas has an extremely easy to use step by step upload process that allows you to adjust color, crop your print, and even purchase professional touch up from their staff. This means a human being is looking at your pictures and not just a computer program. You can go basic and have red eye removed or you can go all out for those once in a lifetime prints. They have a great set of options for wrapped canvas prints but you can also get basic posters and gallery worthy archival paper prints to last and last.
Need to know: If you love Wes Anderson movies (especially the Fantastic Mr. Fox) then you'll love Lili Di Prima's custom portraits. Lili is based in Italy and she has a beautifully simple aesthetic in her art that is professional and impressive while still being playful and even a bit funny. Send her some family photos and have a quick email discussion and she'll transform your 3D family into a 2D work of art. The final portrait is actually layered on thick paper for a slightly textured print. You can select from a range of background designs and you can even have the piece shipped in a frame for an additional fee. (word of caution: portrait is shipped in an envelope and unfortunately the corner of my sample was bent in shipping)
Need to know: WOW. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. We all know someone who is devoted to their pets, they don't even ask for holiday gifts for themselves anymore. They accept treats, bowls, sweaters and more on behalf of their beloved little fur ball. If you know that person and they've seen EVERY PET GIFT there is by now, I've found the one thing they don't have. StudioBlinkr and the truly lovely Catherine (the artist) hand sculpts tiny miniature sculptures of any pet. She also makes custom wedding toppers and monster sculptures for kids. The whole process was awesome from start to finish. Catherine is extremely excited to work with her clients and takes the time to truly talk through the finished product with you. She can even piece different pictures together to make a favorite look that you haven't caught on film for some reason. She took the pose from one picture and mixed it with the haircut and smile from another picture and delivered an amazingly accurate depiction of our family dog that fits right in the palm of my hand. This is a perfect decoration for your desk at the office or any place where it would be nice to remember the four legged family member that is waiting to greet you at home!
Need to know: These are holiday stockings for grownups. If your home's style doesn't really allow for .99 cent red felt stockings with names written in glitter, let the Little White Boutique step in. They use a number of different subdued fabrics and textures to create an upscale version of something that's always been an afterthought in most homes. Each piece can be personalized with names or titles on your instruction. The custom pet stockings even come with small wooden buttons in decorative shapes and fabric cutouts of fish for cats and bones for dogs.
PET FOCUSED HOUSE CLEANING
Need to know: All of the dyson standards are here, the latest “ball” technology, high reach cleaning, and dual radial cyclone technology. You've seen the commercials and heard all of those buzz words before, but what does it all mean? The ball is a central pivot point for all over cleaning but it also houses the machines motor inside. A quick release wand extends quickly to provide up to 33 feet of reach to get the cobwebs out of high corners. Finally, the radial cyclone technology replaces traditional vacuum bags. Bags get clogged over time and suction suffers. The radial cyclones are basically two layers of cones that spin like a centrifuge to not allow dirt to clog. The DC50 Animal is the lightest of all dyson's current models that include all of these top tier features. The whole machine is designed specifically with pet messes in mind. An included tangle-free turbine tool grabs hair with rubber pads that won't tangle over time. This is obviously the vacuum cleaner line to top all others and it has a price to match. It's an investment and when you consider the included 5 year part and labor warranty it makes a lot of sense.
Need to know: This is a maintenance machine and not a solution for an already dirty carpet. If you have nice beautiful carpets and you want to keep them that way, this investment is a no brainer. The SpotBot, as it states, is a robot basically. Any stain up to the size of a frisbee won't stand a chance. Simply place the spot bot over the stain, press on and go on with your day. With settings for surface and set in stains, you'll only clean as much as you need to. There are separate reservoirs for dirty and clean water and a removable hose allows you to clean harder to reach spots like on carpeted stairs. It isn't particularly heavy but it is large. If you want a more all in one solution look at Bissel's Lift off line which basically works the spot bot footprint into a full sized whole home cleaner.
Need to know: Furry feet are great at picking up messes. Pets aren't as great at telling us it's time for a bath unfortunately. We normally find out by finding a nice fresh trail of something awful every now and again on the carpet or kitchen floor. We can wipe things up but just because something looks mostly clean doesn't mean that it's actually clean. The Sonic Duo by Shark uses speed and cleaners to scrub hard enough that floors look clean AND to be sure that floors are clean. When I say floors I mean all floors too. The machine is designed to go from hard floors to carpet without a fuss. The full package includes plenty of specially designed scrubbing pads for every floor type and samples of concentrated cleaners to lift stains and buff everything clean. Two glaring omissions are steam and some kind of vacuuming. Steam heat kills bacteria and loosens up grease, it's missed on the Sonic Duo. Suction comes into mind when considering the carpet cleaning usefulness. Wet carpet cleaners usually do something to suck the dirty cleaning liquid out of the carpet after cleaning, the Sonic Duo does not. Drying takes longer so keep that in mind.
LEASHES AND COLLARS
Need to know: Amish... online? Thanks to a generous middleman, you can purchase these handcrafted leather collars made for decades by an Amish craftsman in Pennsylvania from your computer. Obviously the Amish don't use modern conveniences, but the gentleman running the shop isn't Amish. There is a full range of immaculate handmade goods from belts and dog leashes, to suspenders and even an iPhone case. Think of the reactions when you show people your Amish made smartphone accessories... What? The dog collars come with brass or stainless steel hardware in an array of sizes.
Need to know: ting, ting, ting, TING!!! Little dogs announce their presence as their metal tags bing and bang against their collars. It's something we just accept without thinking about it. WE DON'T HAVE TO ANYMORE! Grimms Leather takes all the beautiful handmade durability of the Amish collar above and adds a whole lot of practicality to the mix. The artist hand stamps your pet's name and your phone number directly into the collar. A number of leather collars, stamp fonts, and decorative symbols allow you to design the exact collar that you want.
Need to know: how many times have you found yourself with a fancy shindig to go to with only a tuxedo t shirt to wear? Image how your dog feels, they have to show up to every occasion as naked as the day they were born. Learned Stitchworks takes a bit of the idea behind decorative children's backpack leashes and puts them where they belong... on your pet! These are gentle harnesses that are ready for walk time but for the rest of the day they are a great touch of personality. After all, what has more personality than a tiny bow tie made just for your pooch?
Need to know: This collar is a great idea but in person it's a bit confused. It's all handmade leather and the quality of the materials seems to be great. The custom engraved name was off center though for an odd feel and the slight braid which is only near the buckle seemed out of place. There are a number of fonts and three different colors of leather to choose from. Feels like the deigns need a little more thought though and next to the piece from Grimm's leather it doesn't quite compare.
Need to know: Are you ready to hear an argument for a nearly $200 dog food bowl? The Pet Feedster is an awesome bit of automated convenience. The ability to feed your pet regularly and without attention is actually a huge weight off of your shoulders. It's extremely simple to operate; fill it with food, plug it in, set the times and amounts of food and your done. Everyday, up to five times a day, the machine comes to life and measures out exactly the right amount of food. Your pet will learn the sound of the machine and start to salivate in no time. Everything is controlled from a small digital screen that lights up blue during operation. A small adjustable piece called a “flexfeeder” regulates the amount of food to be sure nothing gets through aside from what you've set. You can set the machine to dispense as little as 2 tablespoons of kibble at a time up to 6 cups. The machine is powered by an included DC power adapter or 6 D batteries that are rated to last up to 6 months. The one thing that was missed was simple ways to toggle feeding. Sometimes you can't follow a schedule every day, life happens. You can manually dispense food, but you then have to go in and reprogram the machine if you want to skip a feeding because of your changed schedule.
Need to know: Obviously the electronic pet feeder above is a change to the way your pet eats, I had no idea that I would be able to say the same about a seemingly standard dog feeding stand. BanditPet seems to be a product that is beautiful above all else. It is the most beautifully designed dog dish I've ever seen, but more than that it has actually improved my dog's eating habits. Before banditpet, my picky poodle would play with his food from time to time. He'd push it around with his nose or move it out of his bowl onto the floor and refuse it. The banditpet uses two rounded ceramic bowls which, unlike the more traditional stainless steel straight sided dog bowls, actually keep my dog's whole head in the bowl. I feel like because he is so fully in the bowl he can smell and experience his food more fully. Whatever the reason is, he can't wait to eat now! He puts his head in the bowl and he doesn't remove it until you can see the bottom. Banditpet comes in a range of bent plywood finishes and ceramic bowl colors. It's the most modern design that I've seen in a dog dish and it really does turn heads while actually working.
Need to know: We can't spend thousands on beautiful home remodels and neglect the accessories. A dog's dish is almost always on display in a pet friendly home, it should fit in with your home's style. Keystone Vintage Lumber takes actual reclaimed wooden beams from churches, schoolhouses, etc. and chops them into small blocks. They then remove two wells from the solid chunks of wood that accommodate standard steel dog bowls. The whole piece is sanded and sealed and sent away to match your homes décor. The side of the beam exposes a thousand layers of life in the immaculately polished rings that show through. They still allow some of the roughness to show to remind you that the wood had a life before your home.
Need to know: We've featured plenty of modern, Turquoise Angels makes a more traditional version of the wooden pet feeding stand. Think of the look of a child's footstool with two holes cut in the top. The wood comes in a number of finishes and you can decorate with vinyl stickers. You can add your pet's names and even symbols like a dog paw. There are multiple heights available and the shop really has a mom and pop feel that allows some room to make your perfect feeding stand design a reality.
Need to know: This one is just plain cool. This is an actual maple skateboard deck placed upside down with two holes for bowls. As these are skate decks you can find a number of designs in the shop. Four retro modern legs are angled into the bottom of the board and are available in different heights. The one downside is that the skateboards are obviously curved. The edges of the bowls are flat which means they can move inside the feeder. I would have preferred a foam edge or some fitted piece installed that makes the bowls stay put.
PED BEDS, HOUSES, AND HOME ACCESSORIES
Need to know: The coolest dog clubhouse that I've ever seen! There is an actual staircase on the side of this all wood house. The bottom room is a standards doghouse perfect for the larger of two dogs. The top deck ( it's actually a railed deck) is accessible from the stairs. With the success of doggy steps, this is an all in one solution that doesn't require you to assemble and disassemble it between uses. It's available in three different sizes and it's amazing to see in person! Definite conversation starter.
Need to know: This is a standard dog kennel that doubles as a piece of furniture. It's made from a composite plastic like material that is supposed to be strong and durable. The initial sample that I received shipped with a cracked side panel but the team at New Age Pet was quick to send a replacement piece without any hassle. The piece looks good from a far but up close the effect is less successful. The plastic is a bit too smooth and shiny look refined. The door closes with a latch that quickly became loose during testing. Also, there was no stopper for the door which means that it swings freely in and out of the house. A small door like this has no need to swing inward aside from scaring your dog. Additionally, it becomes impossible to latch the door with one hand as you can with most kennels. There are vertical slats on the door and high on the sides of the cage. You can easily mount a water bottle even though the bars seem a bit thick.
Need to know: How could a deluxe wicker residence be anything but refined? This piece is actually made of real wood mixed with woven wicker accents. This is a truly elegant piece of furniture that fits both modern and traditional decors while still being a very functional pet home. This had the same issue with no “back stop” for the door. The internal frame is metal and the accents cover just enough to make it a standout. Assembly will take some time, so if you're not handy and patient find someone who is.
Need to know: This travel minded crate actually has 4 usable doors including “the other door.” The other door is a garage door style that slides up and in to hide away and create a large open space. All of the corners are rounded off and the piece is predominately soft plastic. It assembles without tools but not without luck. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of the unique assembly and dis-assembly process of the piece. Coming from a traditional wire kennel that collapses in a snap, this is a challenge, but you'll get the hang of it quickly. The collapsed crate actually has built in wheels to allow it to be “easily” transportable. In practice the whole thing is a bit awkward and clunky but it is easier than a model without wheels. It comes in different colors and sizes and each comes with a fitted fleece pad for comfort and warmth.
Need to know: No more clumsy baby gates. They never really fit well and they are almost always too short for persistent small dogs. When I first adopted our current dog, he could jump about 6 feet in the air it seemed. We quickly learned that a baby gate wouldn't keep him in the kitchen while we had company. We tried all sorts of makeshift solutions including couch cushions and frustration as key ingredients. A product like the one-touch pet gate from Richell makes the problem no more. A small push latch at the top opens a swinging door and the piece stays in place when not in use. It's available in different colors and finishes and the rubber stoppers protect your walls. It feels permanently installed without having to damage your walls. The instructions for assembly are HORRIBLE. There are different assembly scenarios that are NOT explained well. Take your time here and pay attention to pictures you can find.
Need to know: This one is pretty straightforward, a gigantic marshmallow like puff for your pet to curl up in. There are options for stuffing between foam and a bean bag like material. Whatever you pick, you can get the design that fits your style. Best of all, the covers are interchangeable. It isn't a simple process because the piece is so large, but it's nice to have the option to change. The super soft Sherpa material is warm and comfortable like the lining to expensive winter boots. During the summer, a change to the nicer looking and cooler temp canvas covers will have your pet saying thank you. (Not really, pets can't talk)
Need to know: Pick your favorite photo of your pet and Little Rhody Design Co. will print it on canvas, cut a design to fit it's shape, and turn it into a pillow. Simple as that. In the end, the look is a life-sized puff of your favorite little guy or gal. There are options for colors and the printing is very realistic. You'll mistake this pillow for your pet from the corner of your eye, I know I have.
“Get off the couch Cotton!” -Me, talking to a pillow while not paying attention.
Need to know: We've featured Simplehuman product on the site before. They make THE elegant modern practical use home accessories. Stainless steel abound and simple line design can be found through their entire line of products for kitchens, bathrooms, and even your pet. The large pet food can is available in different sizes up to 40lbs which is enough for a large Costco dog food bag. As with their other designs, the difference is in the detail. Two built in wheels make moving all of that weight simple for anyone. The hinged lid latches twice for an airtight seal that keeps 40lbs of dog food fresh for months. A built in scoop on the underside of the lid has measuring units on it and a magnet to store away simply. This is the pinnacle of dog food storage and though it isn't cheap, it will last and last.
Thank you again to the companies above for supplying their product for this review.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS and as always...
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!