|How much pampering does your pooch
Weinstein's Golden Retriever, given the choice between
a cushy rug inside and the cement outdoors, prefers the cement.
So this vet, too, prioritizes safety and cleanliness over froufrou
when choosing a kennel. "These upscale opportunities are more
so the pet owner doesn't feel guilty that she left her pet in a
stainless steel cage while the family enjoys a beach on Hawaii,"
Only social interaction --such
as playtime or doggie daycare -- tends to win experts' approval
when assessing value from the dog's view. After all, socialization
is a basic essential of a dog's behavioral health. Cut Spot off
from interaction with other canines and, like Tom Hanks in "Cast
Away," he'll eventually start to wig out. Merely seeing or
passing other dogs in a park won't do.
"They need to sneak around, snoop and investigate.
They need to read messages where other dogs urinated and leave their
own scent. They need to sniff each other's rear ends -- normal canine
stuff," Nichol says.
Grooming: "Dogs in
the wild lived for millions of years without medicated shampoos
and massages," Weinstein says. But with domestication comes
a new genetic makeup that makes regular brushing, nail trimming
and ear cleaning a necessity.
Then there are services such as Vivienne McIntosh's
Aussie Pet Mobile, a nationwide grooming service that offers a 15-step
spa treatment for Fluffy in the privacy of your driveway. It includes
a therapeutic massage, which McIntosh is quick to say "won't
cure anything, but it's certainly beneficial to the dog."
Actually, the jury is still out on that conclusion.
On one hand, "I've never seen a dog that got
truly upset if you rubbed its back and tummy, and that's massage
in many cases," says Weinstein. And by that definition, you
can do it for free when you get home. "Do they need a physical
massage in the same fashion that you and I might go in for a Swedish
massage? How can we assess that? We don't have an ability to measure
their pleasure centers and find out what they're getting in terms
But vets such as Nichol say that dogs benefit from
orthopedic physical therapy after surgery, and older dogs with arthritis
find relief from specific massage moves. But he also maintains that
dogs with anxiety-related behaviors respond to the general massage
stimulation from a groomer. "This stuff has its place,"
he says. "You can say, 'Oh, it's kinda silly and people do
it because they have more money than sense,' but when done properly
it can be behaviorally beneficial."
Toys: It's not the number
that counts but the material. For instance, breeds such as Labradors
and Golden Retrievers possess jaws strong enough to destroy virtually
anything they choose -- including brick and drywall -- so a squeaky
toy in their mouths becomes a pile of rubber in 30 minutes. Weinstein
doesn't even favor rawhide for these "chewy" dogs because
it can't hold up long enough to get your money's worth. Brands like
Nylabone tend to be one of the few materials strong enough for the
"One the other hand, a Chihuahua will walk around
with a stuffed animal the same way my daughter walks around with
Curious George," says Weinstein.
In this category, size also matters. Big dogs and
small toys invite ingestion problems. Weinstein has had to surgically
remove golf balls to racquetballs from canine stomachs. One dog
even swallowed a tennis ball and turned up DOA on his doorstep.
"The lesson is that not every toy is safe for every dog, so
look at your dog's nature and lifestyle before spending money,"
To really get a bang for your buck, make the dog earn
the toy rather than simply leaving it on the floor in easy reach,
says Nichol. "Even if you interact with your dog and his toy,
if it's on the dog's terms and he doesn't have to earn the privilege,
you're missing a benefit," he says. Because it's a dog's nature
to be subjugated, toys that ask Buster to work for a treat ward
off anxiety problems and the destructiveness those trigger.
So in the end, the purchasing problem comes down to
Zawistowski's assessment: "The most important thing to spend
on your animal is time."