Cooper and Fred english cocker spaniels / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / cocker spaniel tips, advice, diet, puppy tips, cocker spaniel grooming, how to hand-strip cocker spaniel / (C) Natalia Ashton

Best Christmas presents for your cocker spaniel

If you have ever lived with a cocker, you know they are a very special kind of dogs. The pups do appreciate a touch of quality in everything they are surrounded with. And let’s admit, anything of a great quality is the sure way to put a smile on an often moody face of a cocker spaniel.

Today’s post is all about them! Our beautiful, wonderful, funny, adorable, irresistible, huggable and goofy little guys. And of course, the best gifts we could get for them this Christmas.

My guide is more of a curated boutique’y kind, but it’s only because these gifts are the best of the best – and it takes a lot of time, trial and error to discover them. Hope you’ll find something for your spaniel here.

There are hardly any cocker spaniels who would not appreciate a beautiful tennis ball – or any ball, but tennis ones are the ultimate. These balls from Barc London will please both the pooch and the human who, like me, think that a hint of a classic fluorescent yellow in the interior feels like a painful shot to the brain.

Choose among 5 beautiful shades or get the rainbow! Christmas only happens once a year.

Barc London dog tennis ball toy / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Toys are a special story in our house, too. We went through so many, especially during the teething times. Then I shut down my inner Scrooge and bought a “ducky” from Fluff & Tuff. It was a gift for Fred’s first birthday. Fred is now two and the toy, even through it’s been living an outdoorsy life, is still in one piece and looks very “fluff and tuff”, too. They aren’t cheap, but they really are the best and safest soft toys for your cocker whatever the age. Make a good cushion, too.

Fluff & Tuff indestructible soft plush dog toy / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Cockers love to sniff and exercise their brain, so they will appreciate a puzzle game from Nina Ottosson or a food dispensing toy.

Molly & Stitch tan leather Butter collar / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

New year – new collar! I’ve got these two because the tan colour should suit most coat colours. The “Butter” collar in cognac is from Austria-based Molly&Stitch and the “Gerard” is made in England for Maison le Lou.

Maison Le Lou Gerard Tan leather collar / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

If you are after a very special gift, give your cocker a new bed to relax after a good run. Our favourites are made by MiaCara and Hunter. Perfect for any dog without compromising on style.

Cooper relaxing in his MiaCara dog bed / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniel gift guide / Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog (c) Natalia Ashton

If you feel that your cocker may need something extra warm, give him a baby blanket made of natural wool or cotton. The natural fibres will adjust to the body temperature and be kind to the coat unlike any static polyester or fleece. I’ve got these Tartan Blanket & Co baby blankets when my boys were puppies and am currently admiring the striking one by Lillemor.

Pure wool puppy blanket / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Any pampered spaniel will love the natural spa and grooming products from Dug & Bitch, the Scottish company that pups and I adore. We’ve been using and talking about their wonderful whimsical things for years and I was glad to see that now any dog parent can truly indulge their pup by getting the Ultimate Gift Set box.

Dug & Bitch natural organic grooming products for dogs and cocker spaniels / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

My boys have home-baked biscuits as a special treat, but if you want something ready to eat for your food-loving cocker or as a gift for one of his friends, Pooch&Mutt Christmas Dinner mini treats should hit the spot.

Pooch & Mutt christmas dinner dog treats / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

If you haven’t done so yet, don’t forget to check my Gift Guide for dog lovers that I shared earlier. Because you deserve a special treat, too.

And it’s worth to mention that this post has not been sponsored by any of the above mentioned companies and brands whatsoever.

Cooper, sable red cocker spaniel puppy 8 months old / best christmas presents for English cocker spaniels gift guide / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Photo credits: Cooper & Fred photographed by me, images c/o Barc London, Fluff & Tuff, Molly & Stitch, Maison Le Lou, Cooper photographed by me, The Tartan Blanket Co, Dug & Bitch by Fetch & Flash Photography, Pooch & Mutt,Cooper photographed by me

Dog paws in snow photo / Salt, grit, antifreeze poisoning and dangers in dogs in winter / signs of poisoning in dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / cocker spaniel tips, advice, grooming, diet (C)

Two winter dangers that can be fatal for your dog

“The frost and sunlight! The winter day’s delightl!” Pushing once wrote (and I briefly translated, so no judgment for my rhyming skills, please!) in his “Eugene Onegin” poetry novel.

He was spot on. Winter is a beautiful season to embrace and enjoy. The dogs adore it, too. Mine cannot wait to get outside and do their version of snow angels, which basically involves rubbing their silly happy faces against the frosty grass – bottoms up, wiggling and wagging.

They think everything about winter is fun. But unfortunately there are two serious dangers neither pups nor many pup parents are aware of, so we need to talk about those today.

SALT & GRIT (also called de-icers) appear on our roads and paths at the first hint of arctic breeze. They can be easily spotted as most have a pink or terracotta-like tint. Both can be extremely dangerous for dogs and even cause a fatal outcome. Even though salt seems pretty harmless (we do eat it, don’t we?!) the combination of sodium, chloride and ferrocyanide can cause severe irritation, burning and cracked paws if the dog walks through the grit.

Licking the paws or de-iced surfaces can be life-threatening because the excess of sodium chloride is toxic to dogs leading to a condition called hypernatremia.

The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, lack of coordination, excessive thirst, frequent urination, tremors, seizures and coma. The paws can look red, swollen, irritated, cracked and excessively dry.

Protect your spaniel by diligently washing and drying his paws after every walk (even if the path and roads you walk on seems grit-free); applying protective paw wax before each walk and, if the gritting is excessive in your area – considering dog booties; stopping your dog from licking his paws and any surfaces that may contain traces of grit.

But what if the path is still slippery? There are a few ways to stay safe:

… invest into non-slip boots;

… use a shovel to clear the path from the snow and thick ice;

… splash the path you use most frequently with a bucket or two of hot water – it’s enough to melt the ice and frost;

… use plain rough sand instead of grit and salts – it will give you the needed grip yet will be absolutely safe for your dog.

ANTIFREEZE is the other danger of winter. The solution contains ethylene glycol that tastes sweet to dogs and a small dose can lead to kidney failure and death. Even if you are incredibly careful when using it for your own car, the antifreeze residue can be often found on roads, parking spaces and snow and get onto your dog’s paws.

Dogs are one of the most susceptible species.

The symptoms of poisoning can appear within 30 minutes following ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, drunken behaviour, lack of coordination and knuckling, excessive thirst and urination, loss of consciousness, coma and death.

Protect your dog by storing antifreeze away from your pooch’s access; using it correctly and cleaning any residue on your car, hands and surfaces; washing your dog’s paws after each walk and, should you suspect anything odd, taking your spaniel to the vets immediately.

Have a safe and enjoyable winter! 

Photo credit: image by petronela from Pixabay

Perfect cocker spaniel book featured in Edition Dog magazine / dog and puppy tips, advice, cocker spaniel grooming, diet, health / dog blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Perfect cocker spaniel featured in Edition Dog magazine

I have tried to digest and get used to the sensation of seeing my book in magazines, but it’s still a pinch-me moment that feels surreal.

I feel proud for completing the mammoth task of writing and editing the book and sending it off into the big world for all to see. And then there is the other part of me that  feels happy yet overwhelmed by the retuning heart-aching reminder of the very reason for writing Perfect cocker spaniel.

So I’ll keep the news short.

Last week the book made it to the Edition Dog, the mag written by the dog experts for the dog lovers. Which makes it one of the ultimate destinations I could only dream of.

It looks beautiful. They’ve given me an entire page. And there is a photo of me and Oscar.

I did a happy little dance. And I did cry a little, too. It felt like an early Christmas present.

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Photo source: cover and page from the digital edition of the Edition Dog magazine, issue 14 2019

Best christmas presents for dog lovers gift guide / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

The ultimate Christmas gift ideas for dog lovers

Looking for a perfect Christmas gift to please the dog lover in your life? Then your search ends here. From whimsical to chic, I have picked the most beautiful, tactile and wonderful things that will make someone’s holiday season extra special.

Let’s start with the ultimate Christmas must-have. The most beautiful Dog Person jumper any dog mum will adore and wear with pride.

Best christmas presents for dog lovers gift guide / Boden estelle cashmere-blend Dog Person jumper / Perfect cocker spaniel / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia AshtonIf you know somebody who loves Frenchies, this t-shirt will make them love you almost as much as they love their dogs! Oh, and it’s organic, so good for the body, mind and Planet.

Best christmas presents for dog lovers gift guide / French bulldog printed art organic-cotton t-shirt / Perfect cocker spaniel / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

Now, pyjamas! And not just pyjamas, but the dog printed pyjamas! Suddenly, that christmas morning feels even more cosy!

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I guess, socks aren’t particularly glamourous, but hear me out! First of all, they have dogs printed all over. Secondly, they are a daily necessity. And thirdly, if you or your special someone have a cocker, chances are he is a sock thief. To sum up – get these socks!

 

Best christmas presents for dog lovers gift guide / dog print socks / beneficial herbs for dogs health issues / home remedies for dogs / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

Any sock-equipped tootsies need some pretty bootsies. So if your dog lover is particularly found of country walks, these will be perfect for her!

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And don’t forget the gloves! Especially as charming as this pair!

 

Best christmas presents for dog lovers gift guide / hobbs dachshund gloves / beneficial herbs for dogs health issues / home remedies for dogs / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

Choose this charming Susan Caplan brooch to please an aficionado of all things vintage – and see her eyes sparkle brighter than the crystals.

Susan Caplan crystal vintage brooch / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

And something the pup’s dad! Especially if he is into crisp shirts and beautiful attire. Inject a bit of humour into impeccably tailored suiting by gifting him a pair of these Scotties Cufflinks.

Best christmas presents for dog lovers gift guide / paul smith scotties cufflinks / beneficial herbs for dogs health issues / home remedies for dogs / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

This minaudière crystal-embellished bag by the one and only Judith Leiber is a proof that “all best things come in small sizes”… The little chihuahua will not only replace any statement jewellery, but protect your precious Tom Ford lipstick and American Express during the party season. For the girl who has everything her heart desires… all but this little bag, of course.

Best christmas presents for dog lovers gift guide / minaudière crystal-embellished Mickey Chihuahua bag by Judith Leiber / Perfect cocker spaniel / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

If you are after a more sensible choice for a bag, the MCM bucket bag is the best to go for. The colour will suit most outfits and the practical shape means that it can be used daily from day to night.

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Charmwell the velvet pup will be responsible for your keys and smiles. So perfect.

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Pug is another pooch that will take care of your belongings, and the financial side of your life in particular, by storing every penny. Now any dog parent can save some cash and treat their beloved dog to something very special.

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I love stationery, especially if it comes in a shape of a dog. If your special someone is into stylish office supplies, he or she will adore these dachshund paper clips, trust me on this. Also perfect for a Secret Santa.

Best christmas presents for dog lovers  gift guide /  dog daschhound paperclips / Perfect cocker spaniel / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

Complete the gift with the most elegant handmade dachshund notes by Connor&Thom Browne.

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This sweet tin isn’t just a darling stocking filler, but a perfectly prepared dog walking kit that includes a simple lead, folding water bowl, poop bags and a treat pouch.

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If you are after something tactile and timelessly beautiful that will add a certain something to the interior, Bobby, the walnut dog, is the one. I love him. And have been for years. Also, I think he is a spaniel.

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Candles make any house feel like home, so I simply had to include the iconic Bella Freud Dog candle – my list would not be complete without it. It’s not only extremely sweet to look at, but I am sure the flickering light and delicate scent will definitely bring a moment of sanity for any dog mum who has a crowd to cook and look after during the holidays.

bella-freud-dog-candle-best-christmas-gifts-dog-lovers-presents-guide-perfect-cocker-spaniel

If your dog lover is into crafts, she will adore the idea of crocheting a gorgeous beagle toy! You can also get kits for a labrador puppy and a cocker spaniel.

Best christmas presents for dog lovers  gift guide / TOFT knitting crocheting kit for beagle, cocker spaniel and labrador / beneficial herbs for dogs health issues / home remedies for dogs / English cocker spaniel dog blog, advice, puppy tips, grooming / (C) Natalia Ashton

The nature lover who is particularly found of their garden will be pleased with the Growbar The Dog Bar kit, a seed collection of herbs beneficial for dogs. Now the love can literally grow stronger and stronger as the time goes by. Looks very pretty, too.

growbar-the-dog-bar-gardeners-seed-kit-perfect-presents-for-dog-lovers-gift-guide-perfect-cocker-spaniel-blog

Any house-proud dog lover with a keen sense of style will be pleased to receive Teckel dog that holds toothpicks, salt and pepper! Sweet and brilliant.

toothpick-salt-pepper-shaker-dog-shaped-gift-perfect-christmas-presents-dog-lovers-guide-perfect-cocker-spaniel-blog

And just one more thing for the house…. To keep it warm and toasty during winter. Trust this handsome hound to do the job! And he will definitely deliver! Such a dapper dog! Comes as a door stop, too.

dog-shaped-dachshund-draught-excluder-best-christmas-resents-for-dog-lovers-gift-guide

For the lovers of the printed word who is particularly fond of the English cockers, I’d suggest Flush, the immortal classic by Virginia Woolf…

flush-virginia-woolf-novel-best-presents-for-dog-cocker-spaniel-lovers-christmas-gift-guide

Perfect cocker spaniel, the ultimate guide to the breed and finding and raising an English cocker spaniel puppy by yours truly…

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…and Dogs in Vogue: A Century of Canine Chic by Judith Watt

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No list would be complete without a Christmas tree bauble. Because everyone should have a special decoration to make each year. Here I give you a wool felt Fox Terrier holding a mistletoe. This will bring all the hugs and kisses (and not only puppy ones!) you could wish for.

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Photo source: me & the boys photographed by Elizabeth Clarke of Pink Feet Photography

 

Perfect light grey minimal container for dog treats and dog food / Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog, puppy advice, tips, English cocker spaniel grooming, handstripping, diet, best foods, training, health / (C) Natalia Ashton

We Love | Pet Treat Holder

How long does it take to find a perfect tin for keeping dog biscuits? In my case, and as dramatic as it sounds, over a year.

I knew what I wanted colour-wise, shape-wise, style-wise, lots and lots of “wise”, basically. The problem is that such a tin has never been made.

Until now.

I have been browsing Cox & Cox today looking for a few Christmas-related bits and bobs and suddenly saw it.

The perfect Pet Treat Holder.

Minimal, subtle grey, compact and beautiful. To top it all up, it has the most perfect leather handle!

Seriously, it’s a miracle and I’ve got one on order now. So very much in love…

Oh, and in case you are after dog food storage, there is a large equally-stylish container for keeping your pooch kibble fresh and crunchy.

perfect-grey-minimal-container-for-dog-food-with-leather-handle-perfect-cocker-spaniel-blog

Photo source: both photos are from Cox & Cox website

 

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Be kind

A few days ago I shared a link to a study on my Facebook page. It discussed the connection between our choice of training and its short- and long-term effects on dog’s mental health. The results clearly showed that aversive-based methods (positive punishment and negative reinforcement – in other words, commonly used practices such as yelling, using training gadgets or any other form of punishment that make the dog do something to avoid pain or discomfort) not only lead to immediate stress and anxiety symptoms (lip licking, panting, yawning), but caused higher levels of cortisol and made the pups more “pessimistic” leaving them in “perpetual stress” in the long run.

If you allow me to take a step back from the study, I would like to quickly show you why the damage hidden under a simple word “stress” is far more dangerous than many would imagine. As the cortisol levels rise, the body has to dip into its own resources reserved for other systems (think nutrients, hormones, neurones etc.) – and swiftly relocate them to manage the stress levels and ensure that the adrenal glands that secret the hormone remain as functional as possible. This causes a chain reaction when the deprived systems and hormones including brain, heart, pancreas, nervous, reproductive, digestive and immune systems begin to suffer. In addition, the adrenals that don’t get a much needed break become exhausted and eventually turn a perfectly “normal” dog into a fearful pet that suffers from anxiety, reactivity and aggression simply because his body cannot cope with the external stressors effectively any longer.

On the other hand, the study demonstrated that the group of dogs trained through positive reward-based training remained happy, bouncy and, even though this wasn’t measured, full of endorphins. Even better, the dogs felt emotionally connected to their human companions.

The analysis was the first of its kind (though I do like the one from 2014, too) and I was very grateful to see these outcomes as a proof that kindness can go a long, long way when it comes to dogs.

Even though this seems very obvious, this simple rule of treating your dog with love and kindness no matter what is easy to forget at times. Life can get in the way. Things can become stressful causing us to react out of frustration. Not because we don’t love dogs, but simply because we are imperfect impulse-driven species.

And even though we cannot completely change the imperfections in us – we can alter our attitude towards our beautiful practically perfect dogs. So next time you feel like “losing it” and yelling at your pooch, stop for a second and look at him… Look into his eyes… see how they are still full of affection… Think of how much your dog wants to please you… And remind yourself that he is, after all, an animal and your communication is more like a chat between you and a 5-year old foreign baby who has absolutely no idea what you are talking about (which can be rather scary for a kid!)

Then breathe, hug your dog and see him gazing back at you. This feeling alone can cure any pain and stress you’re dealing with. And if you do feel like screaming – there is always a little cloak room to lock yourself in for a moment. It’s a perfect place for flushing our all the verbal negativity once and for all.

And don’t forget to give your pup a treat when you come out… Because kindness comes in all sorts of forms – chicken and biscuits included.

 

Photo source: image by Mylene2401 from Pixabay

 

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Making the most of the rainy days

We got soaked this morning. Again. The weather has not been kind to us lately. It warmly gifted a glorious Sunday as if trying to justify a week worth of showers, but threw us back into wet and gloomy reality of wet paws and endless blow-dries in the early hours of Monday.

We returned from our walk looking like three seals. Not that anyone cared. Pups were happy – and I was pleased that we got out and stuck to the routine. By the time the blow-dry was over, the soft sun bounced out from the frothy clouds and things suddenly felt optimistic.

The pups settled down for a nap and I decided to write a little post about dealing with bad weather in the most productive way and ensure that your cocker spaniel is happy and satisfied.

Start your day by stepping outside. Even if it seems totally insane, do your best to have a walk in the morning. Your cocker will be grateful for every minute spent checking the neighbourhood, sniffing the grass and splashing through the puddles. Be mentally prepared for a long blow dry that will follow and if necessary, set yourself some extra time to have it done without messing up the rest of plans for the day.

Break your day into chunks and add 2-3 15-minute training sessions. Let your dog learn something new or practise the tricks he already knows.

Play the “find food” game. Hide pieces of kibble around the room (on the floor, in corners, hidden under scattered toys or towels, or left on chairs and sofa) and let your dog hunt for them.

Use brain and puzzle toys. They are created to suit different levels of difficulty, so you can get a few and swap them around. Start with level 1 to get the pup an idea of what to do, get to level 2 when he feels comfortable (and perhaps slightly bored) with the level 1 and move onto level 3 if your dog becomes an expert! Then you can alternate between all three – some can be used as feeders, others – to tire the brain and boost your dog’s confidence.

Choose between treat dispensing toys like Bob-a-Lot,  Wobbler, Turn Around or Busy Buddy, puzzle toys including Tornado Treat Toy, Puzzle Wheel, Brick Board or Dog Casino, or simply DIY by hiding treats inside empty boxes, egg containers, rolled towel. inside scrunched up wrapping paper, or even a muffin baking tin when you cover each  piece of kibble with a tennis ball.

Play the “magic” trick by hiding a piece of kibble in one of your hands and letting your dog sniff it out. Alternatively, hide the treat under three identical cups and ask your cocker find it.

Name your toys together! Pick a toy to play with your pup and remember to always name it when you hold it or throw it or ask the spaniel to find it. Eventually your dog will associate each toy with a name, so you can progress by asking him to go and get “ducky” or “teddy” from the toy basket.

Organise a pup date. Invite your dog’s best fur friend and his or her parents around for a play date. You can enjoy a conversation and a cup of tea while the pups will entertain each other.

Have a cuddle. Even the most energetic dog would enjoy a quiet moment spent next to you on a sofa. Make a cosy “nest” of blankets and pillows, choose a movie or a book and let your baby sleep on your lap.

After all, you just had a day of fun together – whatever the weather. Now it’s time to relax…

 

Photo source: Coop photographed by me