That remote-controlled treats-tossing gadget with a camera that lets you watch your dog when you’re at work? That’s not for your dog – that’s for you and your guilty conscience. That new collar in delightful spring colours? Also for you, not least because your dog can’t see most colours (and probably doesn’t have an opinion on a magnolia-and-duck-egg-blue floral print). And the heart-shaped poo-bag holder? It’s quite cute, but since it’s not edible and doesn’t squeak, it’s also for you.
So instead of buying something for yourself in a pet shop, we suggest you follow Wunderdog’s tips for a happy Valentine’s: give your dog something he wants. And what your loyal little animal wants most is you. Yes, you, you loveable, opposable-thumbed, two-legged, poorly furred fridge-opener. You are your dog’s best friend, his pack, his emergency contact. So take the day off, switch off your phone and put on your walking shoes. Here is Wunderdog’s plan for a perfect random day in February with your dog.
1. Go on a sniff walk
Sniff walks are dictated by your dog, not by you. “Take your dog for a 'smellwalk' where you simply pause and let the dog sniff as long as she wants – let her dictate route and pace,” says Alexandra Horowitz, a leading scientist in dog cognition and author of several books including Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell. Following your dog may lead you to random places, and perhaps a new favourite walking route. Or, if your dog is anything like Wunderdog canine editor Pippa, you may fairly quickly end up in the local pub. Whatever you do, don’t pull your dog back (unless it’s in traffic, of course).
2. Bake some treats
After a long walk, a big treat is in order. Wunderdog’s lovely friend Avril Broadley spoils her miniature schnauzer Ricci – along with large parts of the neighbourhood dog community – with canine cakes and cookies. Here are two recipes from her blog, Growngals.
Dog friendly chicken carrot cake
Makes approximately 12 servings
• 200ml sunflower oil
• 4 medium free-range eggs
• approx 300g grated carrot
• 225g spelt or wholemeal flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 150g chopped cooked chicken (This can be leftovers from Sunday dinner or the shop bought pre-cooked variety. It will be cooked again so it needs to be as moist as possible.)
• 250g low-fat cream cheese
- Line a deep 20cm cake tin or a 2lb loaf tin and pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Beat the eggs together with sunflower oil until frothy. Stir in the grated carrot and
- the chicken.
- Combine the baking powder with the flour before stirring it into the wet
- ingredients. Mix well.
- Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until it feels firm to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to cool completely before spreading the top with cream cheese.
Cheesy Dog Bone Biscuits
• 300g rye, wholemeal, spelt or oat flour
• 100g porridge oats
• 150g mature Cheddar, grated
• 1 eating apple
• 2 tbs vegetable oil
You can add bacon bits to this recipe or sprinkle with parmesan for extra cheesiness.
- Line three baking trays with baking parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Peel and slice the apple. Place in a pan with 150ml of water and cook until it becomes a soft apple sauce. If it remains lumpy, blitz in a blender with the cooking water to make a pulp.
- Combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl with the apple sauce and mix well. Work it into a dough, adding a little more water if necessary.
- Roll out on a well-floured surface to about 7mm thick. Using bone-shaped cutters, cut out biscuits and place on the baking trays. The biscuits don’t expand much in cooking, so you can fill the trays up.
- Bake for around 15 minutes until golden – turn off the oven and leave them for another five minutes to dry out even more.
- Allow to cool fully before bagging some up for friends. Store the remaining dog treats in an airtight container.
Whether it’s a full-body massage, belly rubs or just a bit of spooning, no Valentine’s Day is complete without a bit of TLC. If you want to try something new, work on your dog massage routine: this video by the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage is a good start. Always leave one hand on the dog. The flow of the massage is not dissimilar to the human equivalent: start with long strokes across the whole body before concentrating on individual areas from head to paw.
Having tried this on my dog Pippa, I suggest it’s OK to freestyle. Some dogs hate their feet or tails being touched – if so, just skip those areas.
Numerous dog massage manuals also suggest this is a good opportunity to check for lumps and bumps. Pippa and I disagree. Perhaps because she has endured a good amount of physicals due to her cancer, Pippa retreats whenever I check for lumps. Let cuddle time be cuddle time, and leave the physical for another day.
Wunderdog wishes you a wonderful furry Valentine’s!