51 gifts dog lovers and their canine companions will love

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dash express dog treat maker is one of best gifts for dog lovers
Treat your favorite chef to a dog treat maker from Dash.

  • We rounded up the most unique and thoughtful gifts for dog lovers and their dogs.
  • Show them you care with a monthly subscription box, canine home decor, and all sorts of dog books.
  • Here are 51 useful, entertaining, and adorable gifts dogs and their humans will love.

As one of the most magical and amusing creatures on earth, dogs are more than deserving of a gift every now and again. And their human guardians? Yeah, they deserve a little something too.

In this list, we’ve curated 52 of our favorite gifts for dogs and the people who love them, including a stylish dog crate, a monthly subscription box filled with toys and treats, and custom pet stickers. Whether you want to add a little doggy decor to your home or give your favorite pet something new to play with, these gifts evoke pure joy of the canine kind.

Here are 51 of the best gifts for dogs lovers and their dogs:

Dog stickers that are (almost) as cute as the real thing

black and brown dog’s face printed on stickers

My Sticker Face Sampler Sticker Face Sheet, available on Amazon, $15.99

Give the gift of sticky immortality with these customizable pet stickers. Just upload a photo of their dog and My Sticker Face will create a spot-on version made from vinyl that they can affix to anything that needs a puppy pick-me-up.

A monthly box of canine surprises

dog toys and treats in Bark Box

Bark Box Monthly Subscription, available on Bark Box, from $23

Don’t bother trying to figure out exactly what the dog or dog lover in your life wants. Bark Box has done the work for you. Its monthly subscription boxes contain curated collections of toys, treats, and chews based on fun themes like summer camp, magic, and spa days. Send Bark Box as a gift or, better yet, get your own.

A pack of dogs to protect their smartphone

iphone case with dog print

Pet Friendly Dog Pattern Phone Case, available on Society6 for both iPhone and Android, from $20.99

No more scrolling their social media feeds to find cute dogs. With this smartphone case, there will already be dozens of pups at their fingertips. The pack, which includes corgis, shiba inus, and poodles, can be customized as a slim or tough case for almost any iPhone or Android model.

Flannel pants for cold-weather canine snuggling

navy blue flannel pants with plaid dog print

L.L. Bean Flannel Pants, Dog Print, available on L.L. Bean, $49.95

These extra soft flannel pants will keep them warm and cozy on crisp nights. They’ve been designed for maximum comfort with a drawstring waist and pockets. Choose from three dog-tastic colors and prints and 13 sizes.

A stress-relieving coloring book full of dogs

coloring book with picture of dog wearing hat on cover

Dog Lover: Adult Coloring Book, by Gina Trowler, available on Amazon, $6.99

This charming adult coloring book is packed with 64 pages of intricately drawn black-and-white canines. Go ahead, make your great dane blue and your chihuahua pink. The book’s pages are nice and thick so the colors won’t bleed through.

A mind-blowing book about a dog who ‘talks’

how stella learned to talk book

“How Stella Learned to Talk by Christina Hunger,” available at Amazon and Target, $13.99

In this fascinating book, speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger chronicles her journey teaching her dog Stella to communicate using programmable buttons. This book not only details Stella’s education but breaks down Hunger’s techniques so that you, too, can teach your dog to “talk.”

A pack of doggy chip clips

six chip clips with dog faces

Kikkerland Doggie Bag Clips, available at World Market and Amazon, from $4.99

Reseal your goodie bags with an assortment of canine faces. This posse of chip clips includes a corgi, Boston terrier, bulldog, collie, dalmatian, and shiba inu, each of whom are very good dogs. The clips are made from extra-strong plastic with steel springs.

A handsome dog crate to dress up your decor

diggs revol dog crate

Diggs Revol Dog Crate, available at Diggs and Amazon, $245

Down with ugly dog crates that mess up your decor! Diggs Revol isn’t just stylishly designed, it folds flat in seconds and has wheels for rolling out of sight. The crate is available in three colors and comes with a puppy divider and removable, easy-to-clean floor.

Fresh pet food to fill their dog’s belly

just food for dogs turkey macaroni

Just Food for Dogs, available at Just Food for Dogs, from $5.95

Just Food for Dogs uses fresh, human-grade meats and veggies to produce nutritious canine meals across six different recipes. The food is flash frozen and delivered right to their door. Read more about the best fresh dog food in our buying guide.

A food puzzle to work the canine brain

Nina Ottosson Dog Twister Dog Puzzle under $25

Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Twister Dog Puzzle, available at Chewy and Amazon, from $12.50

For smarty pants dogs that need a job to do, these food puzzles are a great way to both entertain and work the brain. Pop treats or kibble into the compartments and tap into their dog’s under-utilized scavenging instincts. 

A book to decode your dog’s star sign

dog astrology book

“Dog Astrology” by Stella Andromeda, available at Amazon and Urban Outfitters, $14.99

The astrological sun sign under which your dog was born matters, according to this playful book by Stella Andromeda. Find out what an Aries or Leo looks like among the canine set, your dog’s luckiest days ,and whether you and your pup are a match written in the stars.

Puppy throw pillows to dress up their decor

dog face pillow

Dog Face Pillow, available at Uncommon Goods, $25

Accent their home with the friendly faces of adorable dogs. Hook-sewn by hand in the form of three different breeds — golden retriever, pug and Boston terrier — these 8-by-12-inch wool pillows will never shed, drool, or leave muddy paw prints on their sofa.

A pack of dogs to keep them dry in rainy weather

reed evins art dog umbrella

Reed Evins Art Umbrella, available at AKC.org and Reed Evins Art, $29.99

Artist Reed Evins hand-cuts paper to create spot on collage portraits of his canine clients. He’s selected a couple dozen of his favorites — droopy eared basset hounds, friendly schnauzers, and half-smiling fluffs among them — for his wind-resistant 42-inch umbrella. The water-blocking parasol has a black rubber handle with an automatic opener and comes with a dog-patterned sleeve for storage.

A pair of icy bulldogs to keep their highball cool

bulldog ice mold

Novelty Bulldog Ice Molds, available at Williams Sonoma, $21.95

Bring a little canine class to their next cocktail with Williams Sonoma’s bulldog-shaped ice cubes. Made from flexible silicone, just fill the two molds with water, freeze, then run under warm water to release the hounds. The long-lasting cubes will keep their shape sip after sip.

A pet camera that lets them interact with their pup

furbo dog camera

Furbo Treat-Tossing Dog Camera, available at Chewy and Furbo, $161.99

For those who can’t stand to be away from their dog, it’s the Furbo dog camera to the rescue. With the free Furbo app, they can monitor their pet from afar with a 160-degree wide-angle view, speak to them through voice chat, and toss them a treat anytime they want. 

Rubber boots to wear when it’s raining cats and dogs

joules dog rain boots

Joules Raining Cats and Dogs Rain Boot, available at Zappos and Joules, from $29.95

Puddles are no match for these rubber wellies by Joules. Covered in hand-drawn pups, umbrellas, and a couple water-loving cats, the mid-calf rain boots have an adjustable side buckle, a dog bone-patterned interior, and thick grippy soles for traversing slippery sidewalks.

A pair of Bernie’s viral mittens to squeak and tug

bernies paw warmers

Bernie’s Paw Warmers, available at Bark Shop, $10

Bernie Sanders’ mittens, one of the standout stars of the 2021 presidential inauguration, are now available in doggy form. Even if they have no upcoming political events to attend, playtime with these wooly squeakers on a rope will warm up your pup with practical, no-nonsense Vermont style. All proceeds go to the state’s PAWsitive Pantry, which provides families in need with food for their beloved pets.

A way to finally remember if the dog actually got fed

Did Feed The Dog Under $10

The Original “Did You Feed The Dog?” available at Amazon, $9.95

Did you feed the dog? Can’t quite remember, can you? But this simple little device, it knows. Just move the button at feeding time and they’ll never get taken by their pup’s second-dinner-desiring hungry eyes again.

Sweet long johns for a winter full of pajama parties

Toy Story dog pajamas

Toy Story “To Infinity and Beyond” Dog & Cat Jersey PJs, available at Chewy, from $13.35

Dress up their pup for the world’s cutest pajama party in these “Toy Story” themed PJ’s from Chewy’s Disney collection. The outfit comes in six sizes so that even the big boys can let their snuggle flag fly.

A homemade dog treat maker

dash_express_dog_treat_maker Target

Dash Express Dog Treat Maker, available at Amazon and Target, $29.49

Treat your favorite chef to a pup-approved kitchen addition. Fill the waffle iron-like Dash with one of the recipes from the included cookbook (think: peanut butter pumpkin or cheddar bacon) for fresh bone-shaped treats hot out of the oven. 

A squeezable dog water bottle for instant hydration

Dog Bowl Water Bottle under $25

Dog Bowl Water Bottle, available at Chewy, $14.99

Offer the dog a drink single-handedly with this unique dog water bottle. Just squeeze the leak-proof canister to fill the attached dish with water. When they’ve had their fill, the leftover liquid drains back into the bottle for the next time they’re thirsty.

A hoodie with a kangaroo pouch to keep their pup close

roodie dog hoodie

Roodie Pet Pouch Hoodie, available at Amazon, $99

Cuddly pups and the humans who love them never have to be apart with this soft cotton-polyester hoodie. The zip-up 14-inch by 9-inch by 4-inch pocket supports pets up to 15 pounds and comes in six colors.

A ball launcher for supercharged games of fetch

Dog lovers gifts ChuckIt

Chuckit! Launcher, available at Chewy and Amazon, $4.71

It’s almost impossible to tire out a fetch-loving high-energy dog before tiring out your throwing arm, that is, unless you have the Chuckit! With just a flick of the wrist, this simple plastic launcher sends the ball farther than puny human muscles alone and is guaranteed not to quit halfway through the game.

A matching bandana and face mask for twinning with their dog

dog_bandana_face_mask Goodboy

Goodboy x Sock Fancy Bandana & Mask, available at Goodboy, $24

Social distance in style with this dog bandana and face mask duo. The pair comes in four machine-washable custom cotton prints and the triple-layer mask has adjustable ear loops and a 3D chin design.

A pair of fur-sonalized silver cufflinks

Custom Pet Portrait Cufflinks

Custom Pet Portrait Cufflinks, available at Uncommon Goods, $260

They’ll wear their heart on their sleeve with these pet portrait cufflinks by designer Erin Harris. The engraved sterling silver accessories arrive with a bonus gift, too: a rubber stamp of their dog to use on anything that needs a bit of puppy love.

A collar for tracking their dog’s location and activity

Fi_Smart_Collar Chewy

Fi Series 2 GPS Tracker Smart Dog Collar, available at Chewy, $149

Like a FitBit for the canine set, this smart collar will not only help them keep tabs on their dog’s daily activity (and compare it to other pups in the neighborhood) but on their location, too. Using GPS tracking technology, this little device sends alerts anytime a door-dashing escape artist is on the move.

Their dog in sock form

tribe_socks Chewy

Tribe Socks Personalized Pet Face Socks, available at Tribe Socks, $24

Wrap their barking dogs in puppy love with a pair of customizable socks. Chewy will pattern a pair with the face of their furry friend using just a photo. Choose from four styles: holiday, tie-dye, mosaic, and dog paw.

The one toy every dog needs

Kong Classic under $25

Kong Classic, available at Chewy, from $7.99

Whether they’ve got a puppy who’s learning the ropes, an adult dog who loves a good game, or a slow-moving senior, the Kong Classic is a must for busting boredom and tapping into a dog’s scavenging instincts. Just pack the heavy-duty rubber cone with treats, kibble, or peanut butter (among other things) and that big, slobbery tongue will do the rest.

An elevated bed to keep their dog cool in the heat

k&h_raised_dog_bed

K&H Products Elevated Dog Bed, available at Chewy, from $40.99

Make the dog days of summer a little more bearable for their pooch with this elevated cot. Made from waterproof nylon with a mesh center, the raised design promotes airflow that helps keep dogs from overheating when the mercury rises.

A sleepy puppy hamper to snuggle their dirty clothes

Fankang Dog Hamper under $25

Fankang Dog Hamper, available at Amazon, $10.99

Add a dose of cute to laundry day with this dog hamper. The folding, pop-up basket made of waterproof-coated cotton fabric with handles for ears also makes a great storage bin for toys, whether they belong to a dog or to a dog-loving kid.

A bucket list activity journal for dog lovers and their canine compatriots

chew this journal Amazon under $10

“Chew This Journal” by Sassafras Lowrey, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from $13.99

Drawing from 20 years of experience, certified trick dog trainer and doggy writer extraordinaire Sassafras Lowrey’s “Chew This Journal” is jam-packed with fun activities for both dog and human. From urban agility and tips on setting training goals to dog-friendly crafts like DIY treat puzzles and tug-toy-making, this book will encourage them to never stop seeking out new adventures.

A bag of delicious treats with a minimal carbon paw print

jiminys cricket dog treats Chewy under $10

Jiminy’s Chewy Cricket Treats, available at Chewy and Amazon, from $9.95

Maybe dog treats can’t save the world, but Jiminy’s cricket treats are doing their part to help our pups live more sustainably. These tasty morsels are hypoallergenic, probiotic, and produce 740% fewer greenhouse gasses than those made with beef. Choose from two chewy flavors, sweet potato and peas or pumpkin and carrot, or crunchy peanut butter and blueberry cookies.

A people-approved mattress made just for dogs

casper dog bed

Dog Mattress, available at Casper, from $129

Mattress company Casper takes dog bed comfort next level with a memory foam model that rivals those they make for humans. The result of 110 prototypes and 460 hours of lab testing, with this dog bed they’ll rest assured their best friend will be getting a good night’s sleep

A dog-splattered dish towel that really sees them

Dog_Tea_Towel Paper Source

Dogs Tea Towel, available at Blue Q, $12.99

Anyone who’s ever loved a dog knows the best people are the fluffy, four-legged kind. And this canine-covered tea towel, it’s not afraid to speak the truth. Short-haired, curly-haired, little-legged, and big, they’ll be ready to go anytime a dish needs drying. 

A custom cookie cutter for making edible puppy portraits

custom dog cookie cutter

Custom Pet Portrait Cookie Cutter, available at Etsy, from $30

If they think their dog couldn’t get any sweeter, Bakers Street Cutters begs to differ. Send in a photo and they’ll 3D print a custom cookie cutter that makes a perfect impression of their pup every time.

A blueprint of their favorite breed’s best qualities

dog_blueprint Etsy

Dog Blueprints, available at Etsy, $29.99

These vintage-inspired blueprints by canine architects Wet Nose Wiggly Butts break down the characteristics that make different dog breeds unique. Each 16-by-20-inch print features picture-perfect representations of 54 of the most popular pups, from chihuahuas to Newfoundlands. Choose to add their dog’s name to the drawing for a personalized touch.

A yoga mat covered in stretching Frenchies

dog yoga mat

Huebucket Frenchie Yoga Mat, available at Society6, $33

Flexible Frenchies show off their yoga skills on this adorable yoga mat. Their favorite pose? Downward-facing dog, of course.

An honest mug that works as hard as they do

I work hard so my dog can have a better life mug

“I work hard so my dog can have a better life” mug, available at Etsy, from $14.45

For anyone with lingering doubts about where a dog parent’s disposable income goes, this fully customizable mug spells it out in plain English. No one needs to know that dogs work hard to keep us happy, too. Sloppy kisses and dog hair may not pay the bills but they’re worth their weight in gold.

A lickable mat for anxiety-reducing enrichment

Gifts for dog lovers Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mat

Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mat 2-pack, available at Chewy and Amazon, $14.95

Licking a flavor-filled surface doesn’t just release calming endorphins in a dog’s brain, it gives them something to focus on when their stress levels become elevated. Spread these dishwasher-safe rubber mats with a soft-and-creamy favorite like yogurt, pumpkin, or peanut butter for a snack that will last and last. Read our full review of the Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mats.

A flirt pole for tough tugging thrills

Outward Hound's Tail Teaser Dog Flirt Pole under $25

Outward Hound Tail Teaser, available at Chewy and Amazon, $16.99

Release the hounds — or their energy, at least — with a doggy flirt pole. Like a beefed-up cat wand, this canine version features a squeaking, rattling faux-fur tail strung with durable nylon cord to a long, flexible pole that can be swung around for a high-speed game of chase, jump, and tug. 

A collar from a company that supports and empowers Kenyan artisans

ubuntu_life_dog_collars Ubuntu_Life

Triangle Dog Collar in lavender, pink, or cobalt blue, available at Ubuntu Life, $59

Yes, this fashion-forward collar produced by Maasai women in Kenya’s Ngong Hills looks good, but it does good, too. Ubuntu Life is a public benefit corporation that provides sustainable employment, education, and healthcare to its workers and artisans, as well as pediatric health and special needs education throughout the region. The carefully crafted, highly resilient collar is made from leather and glass beads and comes in three sizes and four colors.

A playful seat cover to brighten up the car

molly_mutt_dog_seat_cover Chewy

Molly Mutt Multi-Use Seat Cover, available at Chewy and Amazon, $59

Protect their car from doggy dirt and slobber with a fun toile-like dog patterned seat cover. The versatile cotton canvas can be draped over the back seat (the design features seatbelt slots, nonskid backing and adjustable headrest straps), converted into a car hammock or layered over the cargo hold.

A 2-in-1 tool to make bath time less stressful

Gifts for dog lovers Aquapaw

Aquapaw Pet Bathing Tool, available at Chewy and Amazon, $24.95

Speed up bath time with this flexible water sprayer and massaging scrubber. The tool slips over the palm, leaving their fingers free to reassure their pup or toggle the built-in on-and-off switch.

A smiling bouncy ball that doubles as a puzzle toy

Gifts for dog lovers Rogz Grinz Treat Ball

Rogz Grinz Treat Ball, available at Amazon, from $10.95

This durable ball will put a maniacal grin on their pup’s face. Bounce it on the ground, float it in the water, or fill it with treats or kibble for extended play. It comes in four bright, impossible to lose colors and three sizes.

A vet play set to inspire young animal lovers

Gifts for dog lovers Melissa & Doug Vet Play Set

Melissa & Doug Pet Vet Play Set, available at Amazon, $24.43

Encourage the little animal lover in your life with a play set that lets them practice pet care and the empathy and compassion that comes along with it. This kit comes packed with all they’ll need to make a house call, including a stethoscope, syringe, bandages, and a cone of shame, as well as two plush pets to practice on.

A gallery-worthy portrait of their beloved pet

pet_portraits West_&_Willow

Custom Pet Portrait, available at West & Willow, from $65

Immortalize their fur baby with a custom portrait they’ll cherish for years to come. Choose from a handful of backgrounds and hardwood frames. Each gallery-quality image can include up to three pets.

A cashmere turtleneck for cold weather walks

fido_turtleneck The_Barkers

Fido Turtleneck, available at The Barkers, $89

The beatnik vibes are on point with this cable-knit turtleneck from The Barkers. Made from 100% cashmere, this luxurious dog sweater will have them wishing for a human-sized version all their own.

A pack of dogs who love a relaxing bath

dog shower curtain

Dog Shower Curtain, available at Society 6, $45.49

Add a touch of canine couture to their bathroom with a dog print shower curtain patterned in artistically arranged pups. The polyester 71-by-74-inch curtain comes with 12 buttonholes for easy hanging.

A combination backpack and airline approved carrier for versatile adventures

sherpa pet carrier Petco

Sherpa 2-in-1 Travel Backpack, available at Petco, $52.99

Up in the air or on the trail, their dog can go anywhere they do with Sherpa’s 2-in-1 travel backpack. The cozy, well-ventilated go bag has removable straps that convert it from a backpack to a traditional airline approved pet carrier that fits under the seat in the cabin.

A boho bed cover to rest their weary head

dog_bed The_Foggy_Dog

Amani Sea Dog Bed, available at The Foggy Dog, from $65

Upgrade their naps with a mud-cloth inspired, upholstery-grade cotton bed cover. The durable, zip-up doggy duvet can be fitted over an old bed, pillow, or pile of blankets, or you can purchase a new memory foam or “Sustainafill” insert for maximum comfort. It’s machine washable and sold in three colors.

A book for youngsters about a dog’s most valuable superpower

what the dog knows book Amazon under $25

“What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition” by Cat Warren, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, $7.99

In the young readers edition of the New York Times bestseller “What the Dog Knows,” Cat Warren uncovers the science behind the amazing canine nose. If you know a kiddo with a love of dogs, this book full of photos and illustrations is sure to intrigue, surprise, and delight.

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The man behind ‘Can you pet the dog?’ would love to write a book, but he’d settle for just being able to pay rent

"Fallout 4"
In “Fallout 4,” you can pet the dog.

  • With over half a million Twitter followers, “Can you pet the dog?” is wildly popular.
  • The account provides a specific service: Telling followers whether or not you can pet a dog in a given video game.
  • It’s thanks to one man, working for free, that the account has become such a smash hit.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Every week, with few exceptions, Tristan Cooper spends anywhere from a few hours to over a dozen hours telling over 500,000 people whether or not they can pet the dog in various video games like, say, “Lost Judgement” (you can).

If a video game has a dog or a cat or even a fox, chances are that Tristan’s “Can you pet the dog?” account has looked into whether or not it can be pet.

Despite runaway success, Cooper isn’t making a sustainable income from “Can you pet the dog?” even though the account is being used as a marketing bullet point for some major games with major marketing budgets.

“As of now I have not made any money on the account,” Cooper told Insider in a phone interview earlier this month. “I spend a lot of time on it and you could maybe argue that it’s helping other people get a spotlight on their games and I’m glad to do that,” he said. “But there hasn’t been a real return for me on that.”

Because of the rise of Cooper’s account over two-plus years, the answer tends to be yes, you can pet the dog.

Though he denies it, “Can you pet the dog?” has had a major impact on the video game business. Mainstream video game franchises like “Marvel’s Avengers” and “Call of Duty” have added animal petting, to say nothing of the dozens of smaller indie games that have done the same.

If there’s a cute animal in a game, chances are that players want to pet it – as highlighted by Cooper’s account:

“I would like to avoid overstating any kind of like impact that the account had,” he said. “I started it because people could pet dogs in games to begin with.”

That’s true, and he specifically cited Ubisoft’s “Far Cry: New Dawn” as part of the inspiration behind the account – a game you not only can pet the dog in, but are specifically directed to on a side mission. Other major games, including “Fallout 4” and “The Last of Us,” have featured dogs alongside the main character that were pettable.

But for every example of major games with dogs that could be pet, there are dozens of digital doggos that were unpettable.

As the account’s popularity has increased, the concept has been used as a marketing bulletpoint for everything from small indie titles to major mainstream games.

Cooper isn’t upset about this, but he would like to be able to pay his rent – and maybe turn the account into a coffee table book featuring the stories behind the digital animals we love to pet.

“A nice coffee table book of dogs in video games that you can pet…some interviews. There’s a lot of great stories, behind a lot of the dogs in games,” Cooper said. “They’re based on real dogs. They’re based on dogs that have passed away, and are immortalized in games.”

Most of all, he just wants people to keep enjoying his account even though it’s occasionally used as part of a marketing plan. “I know it is a marketing bulletpoint these days,” he said, “but that’s not to say people aren’t enjoying this.”

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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I train puppies to sniff out truffles at a luxury resort and farm. They cost $8,500 and we only sell them to guests – here’s what my job is like.

Jim Sanford with one of his Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dogs   Blackberry Farm
Jim Sanford with one of his Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dogs.

  • Jim Sanford, 67, works as a Lagotto Romagnolo dog trainer at the Blackberry Farm resort in Tennessee.
  • He trains the Italian breed to hunt locally grown black Périgord truffles, which can sell for over $1,000 a pound.
  • This is what his job is like, as told to freelance writer Rebecca Treon.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Jim Sanford, a truffle-dog trainer in Tennessee. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When I was 25 years old in 1979, I met an elephant trainer at a dinner party and decided I wanted a career working with animals. Soon after, I got a job at a place called Lion Country Safari in Florida where I trained elephants for the next 20 years.

I got a degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management, and worked in zoos and animal parks all around North America and Thailand, and I spent two years in Western Australia.

At 33, I married a librarian, who never had much use for an elephant. When we returned to the states I came to Knoxville, Tennessee to put two African Elephants through charm school. By the end of that, my son was in school and I had to find something else to do, so I found Blackberry Farm, a 4,200-acre resort and hotel in the the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Above all else, Blackberry Farm is about hospitality.

One of the properties and lakes on Blackberry Farm
One of the cottage properties overlooking a pond at Blackberry Farm.

I’d never worked at a place like the Farm before. I started doing groundskeeping there in 1999. I soon started a fly-fishing program, followed by a horse program, and then added sheep and chickens.

In 2007, Sam Beall, the owner, asked if I could teach a dog to find a truffle. I told him, “I can teach a dog to find anything.” We decided to start a Lagotto Romagnolo program and got our first dogs, Tom and Lussi; he was 5-years-old and she was a puppy. I started with both of them from square one and trained them to find truffles.

Training a dog to hunt truffles uses the same technique as any scent work, including search and rescue.

Blackberry Farm
The farm offers plenty of outdoor space for the puppies to grow and explore.

Truffles have a very particular odor when they are mature, and you imprint that scent to the dog and reward them for finding it. It’s quite simple and straightforward.

A truffle is a fungus that grows below ground. To reproduce, a truffle releases distinct odors and an animal coming by would think, “Oh, there’s something very interesting down there.” They dig it up, eat it, and pass the spores along.

We train our dogs to locate the truffle by scent but when they find it, we don’t want them to damage the truffle. The truffles grow several inches below the surface so once the dogs start digging, I immediately call them off, go to the spot, and carefully dig up the truffle. It works quite well.

Once we got Tom and Lussi trained, we harvested more than 200 pounds in just a few months.

Jim Sanford Blackberry Farm
The Lagotto Romagnolo dogs can range in color from brown and black to white and cream.

We harvested truffles from a farm about 100 miles from us that was cultivating the black Périgord truffle, which can go for more than $1,000 a pound. Besides here in Tennessee, there are truffles that grow in other parts of the US, such as Willamette Valley in Oregon and even California.

I get my dogs from one lagotto romagnolo breeder in Italy. Currently, we have two males and six females. We sell the puppies exclusively to guests of Blackberry Farm. We now have four litters a year with six to eight puppies per litter. We’ve had about 300 puppies born at Blackberry Farm. They’re a medium-sized, hypoallergenic dog. Most are pets, only about two of the dogs that have gone to guest families are used for truffle hunting.

Before any puppy leaves Blackberry Farm, I personally train it in basic house manners.

Blackberry Farm
One of the puppies at Blackberry Farm.

They learn recall, to sit, stay, not jump on people, potty train, and walk nicely on a leash. Because the breed itself is very intelligent, they can be challenging.

I made a decision to personally deliver each puppy to its new owner simply so I could get that owner and their puppy off to the best possible start.

On a typical day, I manage the dog kennel and lead a Farmstead Tasting Tour to show guests property.

Jim Sanford Blackberry Farm
Sanford spends most of his workday caring for the dogs.

Throughout any day, the kennel is the most visited part of the property, because everyone loves to see the dogs, so I interact with guests constantly. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job.

Another program I run is called Blackberry Abroad, where I take a small group of Blackberry Farm guests truffle hunting in Italy. We have contacts in Italy that have Italian white truffles growing on their property which, unlike the black Périgord truffle, cannot be cultivated. These truffles are only found in the wild, in northern Italy and in a small sliver of Croatia. The location is a pretty well-guarded secret, so it makes me happy to share the experience with Blackberry Farm guests.

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Recent discoveries reveal how dogs are hardwired to understand and communicate with people – even at birth

dog hug owner
An owner and her dog.

Dogs often seem uncannily shrewd about what we’re trying to tell them.

A handful of recent studies offer surprising insights into the ways our canine companions are hardwired to communicate with people.

The most recent of those studies, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, found that dogs can understand the difference between their owners’ accidental and deliberate actions. Earlier this summer, another showed that even when puppies primarily grow up around other dogs – not humans – they are still are better at understanding our gestures than wolf pups raised by people. Still other research describes how puppies are born ready to interact with humans, no training required.

“Dogs’ communicative skills uniquely position them to fill the niche that they do alongside humans,” Emily Bray, a canine-cognition researcher at the University of Arizona, Tucson, told Insider in an email. “Many of the tasks that they perform for us, now and in the past (i.e. herding, hunting, detecting, acting as service dogs), are facilitated by their ability to understand our cues.”

Dogs recognize their owners’ intentions

dog yellow lab
A yellow Labrador.

Sometimes, when giving a four-legged friend a treat, we drop it by accident. Other times, owners withhold treats to teach their dogs a lesson.

According to last week’s study, dogs can tell the difference between a clumsy human who intends to give them a treat and a person who is deliberately withholding that reward.

The researchers set up an experiment: A person and a dog were separated by a plastic barrier, with a small gap in the middle large enough for a hand to squeeze through. The barrier did not span the length of the room, however, so the dogs could go around it if they wanted. The human participants passed the dog a treat through the gap in three ways. First, they offered the morsel but suddenly dropped it on their side of barrier and said, “Oops.” Next, they attempted to pass the treat over, but the gap was blocked. Lastly, they offered the treat but subsequently pulled back their arm and laughed.

The experimenters tried this set-up on 51 dogs and timed how long it took each to walk around the barrier and retrieve the treat. The results showed that the dogs waited much longer to retrieve the treat when the experimenter had purposefully withheld it than when the experimenter dropped it or couldn’t get it through the barrier.

This suggests dogs can distinguish humans’ intentional actions from their unintentional behavior and respond accordingly.

Even puppies raised with limited human contact know how to read us

Earlier this summer, Bray published a study analyzing the behavior of 8-week-old puppies – 375 of them, to be precise. The pups were being trained at Canine Companions, a service-dog organization in California. And they had grown up mostly with their litter mates, so had little one-on-one exposure to people.

puppies labradors
Labrador puppies from the non-profit Canine Companion for Independence, photographed at the Duke University Puppy Kindergarten.

Bray’s team put the puppies through a series of tasks that measured the animals’ ability to interact with humans. They measured how long it took the puppies to follow an experimenter’s finger to find a hidden treat and how long they held eye contact.

The team found that once an experimenter spoke to the dogs, saying, “Puppy, look!” and made eye contact, the puppies successfully reciprocated that eye contact and could follow the gesture to locate the treats.

“If you take away the preceding eye contact and vocal cue and give a signal that looks the same, dogs are not as likely to follow it,” Bray said.

The researchers found that the puppies’ performance on the tasks did not improve over the course of the experiment, suggesting this wasn’t part of a learning process. Instead, they think, dogs are born with the social skills they need to read people and understand our intentions.

“We can assume that puppies started the task with the communicative ability necessary to be successful,” Bray said. She added, though, that dogs’ abilities overall can improve these as they age, just as humans’ do.

Her team had access to each puppy’s pedigree, so could assess how related the 375 dogs were to one another. According to Bray, 40% of the variation in the puppies’ performance could likely be explained by their genes, suggesting “genetics plays a large role in shaping an individual dog’s cognition.”

Dogs are more likely to ask humans for help than wolves raised by people

wolf pup and mother zoo
A wolf plays with a one-month-old puppy in its enclosure at Berlin’s zoo on May 31, 2013.

Research published in July further underscored the idea that dogs are hardwired to be “man’s best friend.”

The study compared 44 puppies raised with their litter mates at Canine Companions to 37 wolf puppies that recieved almost constant human care at a wildlife center in Minnesota. The researchers tested how well the dogs and wolves could find a treat hidden in one of two covered bowls by following a person’s gaze and pointed finger.

The dog pups were twice as likely as their wolf counterparts to pick the right bowl, even though they’d spent far less time around people. Many of the puppies got it right on the first try, suggesting they didn’t need training to follow those human gestures.

“Dogs have naturally better skills at understanding humans’ cooperative communication than wolves do, even from puppyhood,” Hannah Salomons, an animal cognition researcher at Duke University who co-authored the study, told Insider. “I would say, based on our results, that nature is definitely playing a greater role than nurture in this regard.”

The dogs were also 30 times more likely to approach a stranger than the wolves, Salomons’ group found. And in another task, in which the animals were trying to get a treat stuck inside a closed container, the dogs also spent more time looking to humans for help.

The wolves, by contrast, were more likely to try to tackle the problem on their own.

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I’m an army veteran whose puppy eased my PTSD. Now I own a dog-training school – here’s what my job is like.

Dave Shade in his army uniform with a puppy.
Dave Shade.

  • Dave Shade is a former paratrooper who now owns a dog-training company, At Attention Dog Training.
  • Shade’s career began when he was fostering dogs and couldn’t pay for the training, so he learned how to do it himself.
  • This is what Shade’s job is like, as told to freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dave Shade is a former paratrooper who now owns a dog-training school, At Attention Dog Training. This is his story, as told to freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor.

I always wanted a dog, but my mom didn’t think I’d take care of it.

At 19, I was serving in Afghanistan and our lead vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Usually, I drove that vehicle. But on that day, a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” decided that my crew would go for hot chow and a shower instead. The guy who was in my seat – my friend Private Jordan Goode – died from his wounds.

Another time, our platoon got ambushed and a rocket-propelled grenade went screaming across my vehicle. We got hit with improvised explosive devices several more times. I blew out my knees and bit the sides of my tongue off.

After serving for four years, I came home to Pennsylvania with a Purple Heart – and a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The army trains us not to have empathy. Numbing myself made me an effective fighter, but it came at a cost. PTSD feels like you’re in a dead dark pit with no one to talk to and no lifelines.

Dave Shade and his dog.
Dave Shade.

Now that I was grown up and living in an apartment by myself, I finally got a dog. Lulu was a boxer puppy, maybe 10 weeks old at the time. The very first night, I woke up to the smell of puppy poop, and I was on my knees cleaning it up. But a bond formed between us. Lulu taught me to control my anger. She taught me how to live again, how to love again, how to feel again.

A few months later, my then-girlfriend (future wife) moved in, and we volunteered at an animal shelter. I was going to school for environmental biology, which I thought I’d do for a while before pivoting to do something with dogs, maybe in my 50s.

We were fostering dogs, and I wanted to help the dogs with behavioral issues but I didn’t know what I was doing. We reached out to all these different dog trainers in our area, but I didn’t have much money and was left on my own.

When we adopted a second dog named Sammy from a shelter, I started researching how to become a dog trainer and start my own training business. I was so sold on the idea, in fact, that I dropped out of my senior year of college to pursue it.

Dave and Lesley Shade with their dogs.
Dave and Lesley Shade.

US animal shelters are overcrowded, and roughly 390,000 dogs are euthanized each year. I want to take a sledgehammer to that number. For about half of the dogs that get re-homed, it’s due to problems like unexpected health conditions, aggression, or other behavior issues.

That’s why I became a dog trainer, and since 2015, At Attention Dog Training has trained more than 5,000 dogs. With nine employees, it’s still going strong.

I discovered I’m limited by about a 30-minute driving circumference and an inability to realistically franchise, which made it hard to scale, so I decided to take our training online with a second company, PupCamp – something I’d come to appreciate when the pandemic hit.

When that happened, we used our facility to film lessons. One of my employees had just gotten a puppy named Gemma, so we filmed 60 puppy lessons with Gemma as the star. We soon added other content to keep customers around after the initial training – videos on how to solve common behavioral problems, a veterinary behaviorist talking about separation anxiety, and a 30-lesson first aid course.

We now have more than 100 lessons, and I have to keep time for myself and my own dogs as we grow.

A puppy.

I usually get up around 7 a.m and take the dogs for their quick morning walk. It’s one of my favorite times of the day because I get to spend one-on-one with each of my three dogs: Otis, Sam, and Sarge. It’s quiet and provides time for me to think about business and my team members.

As a professional dog trainer, it’s hard to find time to train my own dogs. So, lately I try to set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day working with my own dogs to keep their skills fresh!

I also carry a notepad around with me at all times, because I’m not the most organized person but moments of creativity – and ideas for new courses – happen all the time.

I spend a lot of my time now doing meetings, especially on Zoom, talking with different experts or investors. I also spend time creating partnerships so we can offer subscriber exclusive discounts with a toy company, an insurance company, and a food company. I spend time talking with PR people and filming new courses. We use my dogs and clients’ dogs for the videos.

Lesley Shade training a dog.
Lesley Shade.

Lulu died last year when we were filming, but her work lives on in the work I do. When I was in the army, there was always a mission we were accomplishing. Lulu gave me a mission again.

Keeping track of the next walk, meal, or potty break added structure to my life. The bond that developed between us was powerful, and it helped me recover from PTSD. I believe dogs have the power to heal us from trauma through their friendship and guardianship.

Read the original article on Business Insider

See the very good dogs tasked with sniffing out COVID-19 at the Miami airport

Close up of Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, appearing happy
Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, waits for a command from Denise Webb before sniffing masks for the scent of COVID-19 at Miami International Airport on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

  • COVID-19-detecting dogs were unleashed, figuratively, at the Miami International Airport this week.
  • Cobra and One Betta will sniff the masks of employees to detect the virus in their sweat and breath.
  • In published trials, the dogs were successful 96-99% of the time.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Miami International Airport launched a 30-day pilot program this week with Cobra and One Betta, a pair of professionally trained COVID-19-detecting dogs.

“We’re blessed in Miami-Dade County to have the first COVID-sniffing dog – actually, we have a couple of them – and it’s the first airport anywhere that’s utilizing this type of technology in our four-legged friends,” Miami-Dade Commission Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz told CBS News.

One Betta, a Dutch Shepard, waits for a command to sniff masks for the scent of COVID-19 at Miami International Airport on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
One Betta, a Dutch Shepard, waits for a command to sniff masks for the scent of COVID-19 at Miami International Airport on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, and One Betta, a Dutch Shepherd, have been trained to detect COVID-19 through a sniff test and to alert when it is present.

They were trained at the Forensic and Justice Center at Florida International University, according to the airport. In published, peer-reviewed, double-blind trials, the dogs accurately detected the virus 96-99% of the time.

One Betta, a Dutch Shepard, sniffs a mask for the scent of COVID-19 at Miami International Airport on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
One Betta, a Dutch Shepard, sniffs a mask for the scent of COVID-19 at Miami International Airport on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Cobra and One Betta will be used at an employee security checkpoint, where they will sniff the masks of each employee to detect the virus through their sweat and breath, which will contain a scent caused by metabolic changes the virus causes in a person.

If the dog detects the virus, the person will then undergo a rapid COVID test.

Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, waits for a command from Denise Webb before sniffing masks for the scent of COVID-19 at Miami International Airport on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Cobra, a Belgian Malinois, waits for a command from Denise Webb before sniffing masks for the scent of COVID-19 at Miami International Airport on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

“Being able to apply decades of research in this way, to provide an additional layer of protection to airport employees at Miami International Airport, it’s humbling,” Kenneth G. Furton, a provost and professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida International University, said in a statement. “These dogs are another valuable tool we can leverage to help us live with this ongoing pandemic.”

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‘Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan sued for allegedly covering up his pitbull’s deadly attack on Queen Latifah’s dog, report says

Cesar Millan and his dog Junior
Dog behaviorist Cesar Millan and dog Junior attend the Premiere of Nat Geo Wild’s “Cesar 911” Season 2 on March 13, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.

  • “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan is in the middle of a lawsuit alleging his dog attacked and killed Queen Latifah’s dog.
  • Millan asked his staff to cover up the attack and were told to tell Latifah her dog got struck by a car and killed, TMZ reported.
  • The lawsuit claims Millan’s dog also attacked Lidia Matiss in 2017, a young gymnast, who can no longer compete in the sport because of her injuries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Caesar Millan, also known as the “Dog Whisperer,” is in the middle of a lawsuit claiming his dog attacked one of Queen Latifah‘s dogs and injured several others, TMZ reported.

The lawsuit was filed by Lidia Matiss, a young gymnast who claims Millan’s dog Junior attacked and severely injured her legs in 2017 after the dog had been walking around Millan’s office unsupervised. According to Matiss’ lawsuit, which was obtained by TMZ, Matiss says Junior has a history of attacking other people and pets, including one of Latifah’s dogs.

After Latifah brought two of her dogs to Millan’s center in Santa Clarita, California, one was attacked and killed by Junior, the lawsuit says. Staff at the center were allegedly asked by Millan to cover up the attack and were told to tell Latifah her dog got struck by a car and killed.

Matiss, whose mother works for Millan, claims that Millan was aware that Junior has a history of violence.

Before the attack, Matiss was an excellent gymnast at the highest level of the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics Programs, TMZ reported. She was actively being recruited by the University of Pennsylvania and claims she had to leave the sport because of her injuries from the attack.

According to TMZ, Millan answered the lawsuit and claims Matiss knew of the danger related to the dog. He also claims negligence on the part of Matiss but does not specify how, TMZ reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best dog food in 2021, with advice from veterinarians and an animal nutritionist

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Dog food being served to a boston terrier puppy
  • There are many excellent dog food brands, but finding the right food for your pet is not so simple.
  • We spoke to veterinarians and an animal nutrition expert who guided us in selecting nutritious dog food.
  • Here are some of the best dog foods, including kibble, canned food, fresh food, and puppy, senior, and grain-free diets.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Choosing a healthy dog food for your pet can be an overwhelming process. The truth is, there isn’t a single best dog food in any given category. And that’s actually a good thing because it means pet owners have many excellent options to choose from.

With guidance from veterinarians and an animal nutritionist, we carefully selected different types of foods across price points, including dry kibble, canned wet food, fresh food, and diets for puppies or senior dogs. In order to maintain impartiality, our experts did not recommend specific brands or formulas.

“Dogs are individuals,” says veterinarian Carol Osborne, of the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “What works well for Dog A, might not work well for Dog B. If you want to know if a food is good for your pet, look at your pet. Your pet is a reflection of what he or she is eating.”

We also consulted standards from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Global Nutrition Guidelines published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). The foods in this guide are complete and balanced according to AAFCO standards, which means they offer appropriate levels of protein, fat, and fiber for a dog’s life stage.

Each of our picks was evaluated based on its nutritional adequacy, calorie content, guaranteed analysis, and ingredients. They contain high-quality ingredients and meet our long list of expert-informed criteria – you can read more about those at the end of this guide. .

Our advice is tailored to the “average dog” – a sedentary or moderately active dog that is either a healthy weight or slightly overweight, does not have a specific health condition, and is not a working or performance dog. Always consult your veterinarian before introducing new foods to your dog’s diet to account for their individual needs.

At the end of this guide, you’ll find complete details on our methodology and the experts we spoke with, as well as information on how to read a pet food label, calculate your dog’s caloric needs, and find a food your dog likes to eat. You can also use this knowledge to evaluate any other brands you might be interested in trying.

Here are 21 of the best dog foods you can buy in 2021

Best adult dry dog food

dry dog food including purina beyond superfood, merrick health grains, and nature's logic canine chicken meal feast
These dry dog foods from Purina, Merrick, and Nature’s Logic contain a variety of high-quality ingredients and healthy extras.

Dry dog food is a practical option for many pet owners: It’s cost-effective, has a long shelf life, and is easy to store and feed. 

For adult dogs, we recommend foods that contain a moderate amount of protein (the AAFCO minimum is 18% for adults) and low to moderate fat. When it comes to protein, you may assume more is better since dogs evolved as carnivores, but this is not the case, according to Kelly Swanson, PhD, professor of animal and nutritional sciences at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Domestic dogs are actually omnivorous and do not require extremely high protein concentrations in their diet. 

“From a pet health perspective, the protein quality and digestibility are most important,” explains Swanson. With that in mind, we looked at dozens of foods to find ones with whole meats and meat meals at the top of the ingredients list. Complementary proteins like rice and beans are also good. Swanson likes to see fat concentrations below 20%, but he doesn’t get too concerned about fat content for healthy-weight pets who do not have conditions like pancreatitis or gastrointestinal disease.

Beyond this, veterinarian W. Jean Dodds, owner of Hemopet Holistic Care Veterinary Clinic, looks for a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, including high quality meats or fish, some carbohydrates, a mixture of vegetables, and some fruit. Many dog foods also contain extra ingredients like omega fatty acids for skin and coat health, probiotics for digestion, and glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussels for joint support. 

Our recommendations below hit all of the must-haves and each has a combination of healthy extras, from omega fatty acids and probiotics to  glucosamine and chondroitin.

Our picks for adult dry dog food:

Beyond Superfood Blend Wild-Caught Salmon, Egg, and Pumpkin Recipe (14.5-lb bag) (medium)Classic Healthy Grains Real Beef and Brown Rice Recipe (25-lb. bag) (medium)Canine Chicken Meal Feast (25-lb. bag) (medium)
Best adult wet dog food

best wet dog food including wellness lamb and beef stew, go solutions skin and coat care, and nutro turkey and potato recipe
We recommend these AAFCO complete-and-balanced wet dog foods from Wellness, Go! Solutions, and Nutro.

Wet food is particularly appealing to dogs. Pet parents often like it for this reason, and it may be a good option for picky eaters who turn their nose up to kibble. Wet food also has a long shelf life when unopened. 

We selected wet foods that meet the same AAFCO complete and balanced standards that apply to dry food. However, wet food generally contains more protein and fat and fewer carbohydrates, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian before switching your dog to a wet diet, especially if they have trouble digesting a lot of protein or fat.

Although the same standards apply to dry and wet food, it can be hard to compare their labels. Dry kibble has very little moisture, while canned food contains a lot of water. To read a wet food label, you need to look at the percentages of protein, fat, and fiber on a “dry matter basis.” Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University offers instructions so you can calculate them yourself. You can also call the food manufacturer or ask your veterinarian for help. For the foods we recommend, we contacted the manufacturer.

When shopping, be on the lookout for wet dog food that is 100% meat. More protein might seem like a good thing, but these foods are for supplemental feeding only. “Dogs have evolved from wolves to become obligate omnivores,” says Dodds. This means that they need more than just meat in their diet. Small amounts of meat-only wet foods can make tasty meal toppers for your dog’s complete and balanced dry food.

Our picks for adult wet dog food:

Skin + Coat Care Pollock Pate (12.5-oz. cartons, 12-pack) (medium)Lamb and Beef Stew with Brown Rice and Apples (12.5-oz. cans, 12-pack) (medium)Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Turkey and Potato Recipe (12.5 oz. cans, 12-pack) (medium)
Best fresh dog food

best fresh dog food includes just food for dogs, the farmer's dog, and ollie
Fresh dog food from Just Food For Dogs, The Farmer’s Dog, and Ollie can be delivered right to your door.

Fresh dog food has grown in popularity over the last few years. We like it because it is minimally processed, made with wholesome ingredients, often without preservatives, and cooked a short time before your dog eats it. All this means fresh dog food is some of the most expensive food you can buy.

Many pet food companies cook fresh, individually customized meals and ship them directly to your door, usually via a subscription. When choosing a healthy fresh dog food, look for the same beneficial ingredients you would for any dog food: meat sources of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, marine sources of fat, and healthy extras like omega fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, and probiotics.

We have tested all of our picks for fresh food and can attest to their quality. These foods are AAFCO complete and balanced and the calorie content of the meals is tailored to your dog based on their weight, breed, and activity level.

Our picks for fresh dog food:

Turkey and Whole Wheat Macaroni (18-oz. package) (medium)Monthly Subscription (medium)Chicken Recipe (monthly subscription) (medium)
Best budget dog food

best budget dog food includes whole earth farms adult, blue buffalo life protection, and natural balance original ultra
High-quality affordable dry dog food is available from Blue Buffalo, Natural Balance, and Whole Earth Farms.

The phrase “you get what you pay for” holds true for dog food. Food made from organic, non-GMO, or human-grade ingredients comes with a premium price tag. 

The good news is, it’s not necessary to go broke to feed your dog a great diet. If you’re looking to spend less, we’ve found high-quality dog foods that provide excellent nutrition at a lower price. 

We don’t advise buying the cheapest food available — to keep the price down, such foods contain lower-quality ingredients and more fillers. As with any diet, choose the appropriate food for your dog’s life stage and check for the AAFCO complete and balanced statement on the label.

Our picks for budget dog food:

Adult Recipe (25-lb. bag) (medium)Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe (30-lb. bag) (medium)Original Ultra Chicken, Chicken Meal, and Duck Meal Formula (30-lb. bag) (medium)
Best grain-free dog food

recommended grain-free dog food fro purina one, orijen fit and trim, and instinct original
For AAFCO complete-and-balanced grain-free dog food, we recommend recipes from Purina, Orijen, and Instinct Original.

Grain-free diets aren’t necessarily superior to diets that contain grains, but they can be helpful if your dog is allergic or intolerant to specific grains. There is also a misconception that these dog foods are carbohydrate-free, but the necessary carbohydrates just come from non-grain ingredients like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, and tapioca.

Something worth mentioning in any discussion about grain-free food is the fact that the FDA continues to investigate a potential link between dogs fed grain-free diets and the development of a heart condition called non-hereditary dilated cardiomyopathy. For now, no firm correlation between grain-free diets and cardiac issues has been scientifically supported. However, it’s possible we may discover more in the future. Always talk to your veterinarian about feeding your dog a grain-free diet.

Our recommendations are all AAFCO complete and balanced and include whole meats and healthy extras like omega fatty acids, probiotics, and glucosamine. Both Orijen Fit and Trim and Purina One True Instinct have also undergone feeding trials to ensure they are palatable, digestible, and can nutritionally sustain pets over time.

Our picks for grain-free dog food:

Fit and Trim Grain-Free Dog Food (25-lb. bag) (medium)Original Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken (22.5-lb. bag) (medium)One True Instinct Grain-Free With Real Beef (25-lb. bag) (medium)
Best dry puppy food

best dog food for puppies includes wellness complete health small breed, orijen large breed, and merrick healthy grains
These foods from Wellness, Merrick, and Orijen will meet a growing puppy’s unique nutritional needs.

Puppy foods are formulated to be energy-dense, which means they are higher in fat and calories to fuel growing bodies. Some puppy foods are made specially for small breeds or large and giant breeds. “Balancing the nutrient needs of dogs given their wide size variety and ages is wise and common sense,” says Dodds.

To ensure a food is appropriate for puppies, check the label for an AAFCO complete and balanced statement that says it’s intended for growth for all life stages. A food labeled “maintenance” is only intended for adult dogs. 

There aren’t any official AAFCO nutrient standards for small and large breed designations. Small breed puppy foods usually have a smaller kibble size for smaller mouths and are often slightly higher in calories to account for the higher metabolisms of these breeds. Puppy foods for large and giant breeds generally contain more protein, less fat, and fewer calories. They often include an ideal balance of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D to encourage slower growth to support joint health and prevent obesity.

We selected three different foods, one for small breeds, one for large breeds, and one for any size breed. Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy and Orijen Puppy Large Grain-Free Food have both undergone feeding trials to ensure they are palatable, digestible, and nutritionally sustainable.

Our picks for puppy food:

Complete Health Small Breed Puppy (4-lb. bag) (medium)Puppy Large Grain-Free Food (25-lb. bag) (medium)Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Recipe (12-lb. bag) (medium)
Best dry senior dog food

best senior dog food includes purina pro plan, merrick healthy grains, and nulo freestyle
These senior dog foods include healthy extras like glucosamine, chondroitin, omega fatty acids, and probiotics.

Senior diets are intended for the unique needs of older dogs. “Senior diets are formulated to target some of the common ailments of older pets, such as joint health, digestive health, immune health, and possibly others,” says Swanson. 

These diets may contain higher amounts of protein, higher quality protein to maintain muscle, fiber to aid in fecal elimination, additional antioxidants to limit oxidative stress and aid in immune response, and additional omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive performance.

Since older dogs are often less active, these diets typically contain fewer calories. Some foods are also lower in protein, but contrary to popular belief, healthy senior dogs may actually benefit from more protein than younger adult dogs. If your dog does not have health conditions, look for a senior diet that is lower in fat and calories and contains extra protein — the AAFCO minimum protein for adult dogs is 18%.

Our picks for senior dog food are high in protein and include healthy extras to support an aging dog’s health.

Our picks for senior dog food:

Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Chicken and Rice Formula (30-lb. bag) (medium)Healthy Grains Senior Recipe (25-lb. bag) (medium)Freestyle Grain-Free Senior Trout and Sweet Potato Recipe (26-lb. bag) (medium)
Our methodology

I’ve been fortunate to interview many veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists throughout my 20-year career writing and editing for pet and veterinary publications, and I’ve fed my own dog many different dog food brands. 

For advice on what to look for in a healthy dog food and what to avoid, I consulted two veterinarians and a professor of animal and nutritional science. Although this information guided me in my product selection, our veterinary experts did not specifically endorse any of the products included in this guide. This makes sense since a veterinarian’s goal is to find a food that best fits each individual dog, rather than making broad recommendations. 

All the foods mentioned in this guide are complete and balanced according to the guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), contain high-quality ingredients, and offer appropriate levels of protein, fat, and fiber for their respective categories. 

I also consulted educational materials from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Global Nutrition Guidelines published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

What to look for in dog food, in order of importance:

AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement: The most important benchmark of a healthy dog food is a statement on the label that says it meets the nutritional standards established by the AAFCO, demonstrating that the food is complete and balanced for the dog’s life stage. All foods mentioned in this guide are AAFCO complete and balanced. Read more about those standards and definitions in the next slide.

Guaranteed analysis: The guaranteed analysis lists the percentages of the most vital nutrients in the food: protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Sometimes, other nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids are also listed in the guaranteed analysis. Foods selected in this guide contain moderate to high protein (AAFCO minimums are 22% for puppies and 18% for adults) and low to moderate fat (AAFCO minimums are 8.5% for puppies and 5.5% for adults).

Ingredients list: The ingredients list can be tricky to navigate, especially when taking water content into account, but in general, you want to see clearly identified animal sources of protein at the top of the list. Whole meat is great, but it is heavier due to its moisture content. Once that water is removed, the meat content might not be as high as you think. Don’t automatically write off meat meals. High-quality meat meals can be an excellent source of protein — the water has been removed, so they may provide more protein than whole meat. The ingredients lists of all the foods in this guide contain animal sources of protein at the top of the list.

Healthy extras: According to Swanson, some foods contain extra ingredients intended to support healthy skin, coat, and joints. Some of these may include additional long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA; usually supplied by marine-based oils or meals), omega-6 fatty acids (safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, flaxseed, etc.), glucosamine, chondroitin, green-lipped mussels, and additional vitamins (vitamin A, biotin) and minerals (zinc, copper). Probiotics, prebiotics, and yeast fermentation products may also boost gut health.

Calorie content: The calorie content of dog food is listed in kilocalories, or k/cals. When dogs consume too many calories, they are at risk for becoming overweight or obese. Less-active dogs need fewer calories and very active dogs like performance or working dogs need a food that is more calorie dense. For most dogs, being able to eat the largest volume of food while staying within the ideal daily calorie range will help them feel more satisfied. In general, such foods rated higher in our selection process. Check out this calorie calculator to determine how many calories your dog needs. Your veterinarian can also evaluate if the amount you’re feeding is appropriate.

Feeding trials: It’s great if a food has undergone feeding trials in addition to a laboratory analysis of the food’s ingredients. If the nutritional adequacy statement on the label has language like “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [product] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage]” it means the food has been proven via feeding trials to be palatable, digestible, and able sustain pets over time.  

Expert formulations: Choose a pet food manufacturer that works closely with a veterinary nutritionist or other professional with a master’s degree or PhD in nutrition, animal science, or a related field. Manufacturers may employ one or more full-time nutritionists, or hire one or more nutrition consultants. For this guide, we prioritized brands that have a dedicated nutrition expert on staff to align with WSAVA recommendations.

Next-level ingredients: Seeing natural, organic, or human-grade ingredients on the label is nice, especially if you believe in the health benefits of organic foods. Wild-caught fish are as natural as you can get and, unlike farmed fish, are not treated with antibiotics or medications. Some foods use eggs and meat from cage-free chickens and turkeys, which is a bonus if you care about the welfare of the animals you — and your pets — eat. That said, ingredients in dog food need not be human-grade, organic, wild-caught, or cage-free to be healthy and nutritious for pets.

AAFCO standards

The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a private nonprofit corporation that defines ingredients and establishes nutritional profiles for animal feed and pet food. AAFCO establishes model language for states and other governing bodies. It does not regulate, test, approve, or certify pet food. The US Food and Drug Administration, which is a voting member of AAFCO, regulates pet food labels at the federal level. States also regulate pet foods, and most have adopted the model pet food regulations established by AAFCO.

Dog foods that meet the nutritional standards established by AAFCO may use a statement on the label that says the food is complete and balanced for the dog’s life stage according to the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile. There are three life stages: 1) maintenance, for adult dogs more than 1 year old, 2) growth, for puppies less than 1 year old, and which also includes pregnant and lactating females, and 3) all life stages, which is any dog of any age.

Foods that do not display language asserting that they are complete and balanced as determined by AAFCO standards are labeled for supplemental or intermittent feeding only. Those foods should never be a dog’s sole diet as they are not nutritionally adequate.

Foods can meet AAFCO standards in two ways:

  1. Guaranteed analysis:Nutrient profiles are determined through laboratory analysis of the food. Foods that meet AAFCO standards as per nutrient profiles will display language like “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for [life stage].” You can always contact the company to confirm the nutrient profile of the food also meets nutritional levels established by the AAFCO.
  2. Feeding trials:Pet foods can also meet the standards through feeding trials, where the food is fed to animals under controlled conditions and the outcomes are monitored. Feeding trials are not perfect, and they are also very expensive, so not all companies perform them. However, it’s nice to see them, though they should not replace nutrient profiles. If you see language like “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [product] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage]” it means the food has been proven via feeding trials to be palatable, digestible, and able sustain pets over time.

How to read a pet food label

a dog food label showing guaranteed analysis, AAFCO complete and balanced statement, ingredients, and calorie content.
On a dog food label, look for important details like the AAFCO Complete and Balanced statement, guaranteed analysis, and calorie content.

Dog food packages feature attractive images and targeted descriptions intended to sell you on the quality and healthfulness of the food, but if you really want to know whether a dog food is high quality and a good choice for your dog, learn what to look for on the label.

A great place to start is this handy reference from the WSAVA about interpreting food labels. The most important information to look for on a label is the AAFCO complete and balanced statement, the guaranteed analysis (crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, and moisture), and the calorie content statement.

The ingredients list is also important, but it can be difficult for the average pet owner to know how well their dog will do on a diet just based off the ingredients.

“Although many pet owners make their decision based largely on the ingredient panel, it is only one of many considerations,” Swanson says. “Without knowing the exact formula and percentage of each ingredient, it is not too useful. What is more important is that the dietary formula is complete and balanced.”

Certain terms on pet food labels can be confusing and even misleading. “Terms like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are very common in the industry today,” Swanson says. “While both terms were intended to highlight higher quality ingredients, they do not guarantee high quality.” He explained that quality depends on both the raw ingredients and good manufacturing practices. “Like other ingredients that do not carry these terms, they are highly variable due to differences in soil quality (plants), feed quality (animals), ingredient storage, ingredient handling, etc.,” he says.

If you find reading pet food labels confusing, your veterinarian can talk to you about your dog’s individual needs, help you choose an appropriate food, and advise how much to feed.

FAQs about dog food

Dog food being served to a boston terrier puppy

What is the best food I can feed my dog?

It’s important to find a food your dog likes eating and thrives on, but this may involve a bit of trial and error. Individual dogs digest food differently. Some dogs do better with more protein, some need less. Some dogs can tolerate higher levels of fat; others need less. Dogs also handle amounts of fiber differently. Your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist can help you sort out what diet will work best for your dog.

“Dogs are individuals,” says veterinarian Carol Osborne, of the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “What works well for Dog A, might not work well for Dog B. If you want to know if a food is good for your pet, look at your pet. Your pet is a reflection of what he or she is eating.”

Outward signs of good health include clear eyes and nose, ears that aren’t smelly, and a coat that isn’t dry, flakey, or shedding excessively. Your dog should not be vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. “Soft stool is not normal,” Osborne says. “Bowel movements should be formed and homogenous. You should not be able to make out the pea, the piece of corn, the carrot. [Homogenous stool] means the food has all been digested.”

What is human-grade dog food?

Pet foods that use the term “human-grade” must follow strict rules. The term may only be used if it applies to the finished food as a whole — not individual ingredients. Both the ingredients and finished product must be documented to be stored, handled, processed, and transported according to the current good manufacturing practices for human-edible foods, and the label must clearly state that the food is intended for dogs.

Swanson has tested a few human-grade pet foods in his lab over the years. “While I don’t have a strong preference to any one type or brand of diet, I can say that the human-grade foods I have had experience with are highly palatable, highly digestible, and resulted in a low volume of stool that allowed for easy clean up,” he says.

What is a raw diet for dogs?

A raw diet may consist of uncooked meat, bones, fruit, vegetables, raw eggs, and yogurt or another dairy product. By comparison, most store-bought dog food contains some combination of cooked meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Is a raw diet good for my dog?

Raw pet food poses dangers to both dogs and humans. Veterinarians told Insider Reviews that despite some reported benefits, there are too many risks for pets, including bacterial infections, nutritional deficiencies, and injuries from bones in the food. In addition, people who are immunocompromised, elderly people, and young children are at risk of bacterial infections if they live in a household where a dog is fed a raw diet. For more information, read the statements from the FDA and CDC regarding the health and safety risks of feeding raw dog foods.

Our expert sources

  • Dr. Kelly S. Swanson MS, PhD, is a professor of animal and nutritional sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. Dr. Swanson’s lab conducts research on nutrition-related problems like obesity and intestinal health. Dr. Swanson is the Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition.
  • Jean Dodds, DVM, obtained her veterinary degree from Ontario Veterinary College. A clinical research veterinarian for more than 50 years, Dr. Dodds has more than 150 research publications. She is the founder of Hemopet, the first nonprofit national animal blood bank. Dr. Dodds is the developer of NutriScan, a food sensitivity and intolerance diagnostic test for dogs, cats and horses. She co-authored two books with Diana Laverdure, The Canine Thyroid Epidemic: Answers You Need for Your Dog (Dogwise, 2011) and Canine Nutrigenomics: Foods that Heal Your Dog (Dogwise, 2015).
  • Carol Osborne, DVM, is founder and director of the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She is author of the books Naturally Healthy Cats (Marshall, 2006) and Naturally Healthy Dogs (Marshall, 2006) and hosts a weekly National Pet Talk AM radio show broadcast. Dr. Osborne has appeared on Good Day L.A. and Today in New York, where she was the on-camera staff veterinarian.
  • Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) 
  • World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Global Nutrition Guidelines 
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Dog trainers are booked solid for months after millions of Americans adopted pandemic puppies

dog
  • Millions of Americans have adopted or bought pets to keep them company at home during the pandemic.
  • The trend has meant a boom in business for dog trainers, who are now booked months out as a result.
  • “We’re in a crisis,” one dog trainer said. “We’re saying no because we can’t do any more.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

These days, Mark Forrest Patrick is up and at it before the sun rises. His workday begins around 4 am, when he starts responding to texts, emails, and voicemails. He teaches group classes throughout the day and visits clients’ homes for private sessions as well. His last appointment of the day wraps up around 9pm. He’s been doing this for months now, but it wasn’t always like this.

Patrick isn’t a teacher or a doctor. He’s a dog trainer. With more than 10 million US households having acquired a pet during the pandemic, many dog trainers like Patrick are swamped.

“There are days where I leave a client’s house, I go find a place to stop, and I have a breakdown; we cannot continue to work like this,” he told Insider. “We’re in a crisis.”

Before the pandemic hit, Patrick usually ran four group classes per week and saw two additional clients each day for private sessions. Now, those numbers have tripled: He heads 13 group classes per week and makes five or six home visits every day.

“It’s important for people to understand that we’re not saying no because we don’t want to help,” he said. “We’re saying no because we can’t do any more.”

Despite the threefold increase in his appointment openings, Patrick’s classes still fill up less than 24 hours after he posts them online, and he’s booked two months out.

“I go to bed at night, and I think, ‘How could I possibly do more than what I’m doing now?'” he said. “There’s only so many hours in a day.”

With many adults now preparing to head back to the office at some point and seeing their kids off to in-person classes again, a lot of them are worried about leaving their dogs at home alone after pets were accustomed to a full house for most of the day.

As a result, they’re turning to dog trainers like Fanna Easter, who specializes in helping dogs with separation anxiety.

Prior to the pandemic, Easter was booked six weeks in advance. Now, she doesn’t have an open spot for the next four months.

“This is not normal by any means,” she said. “We are bursting at the seams trying to fit people everywhere we can.”

Fellow dog trainer Beth Berkobien also specializes in pets’ separation anxiety, along with aggression and reactivity. She has seen an “absolutely astronomical increase” in business. Berkobien has gone from seeing 10 to 15 clients per week last summer to seeing around 70 clients each week now.

“It can be a little challenging in that my time off is very limited,” she said.

Her workday has stretched to accommodate the additional sessions. Having worked seven-hour days before the pandemic, she now works 11-hour days.

“I have experienced a little bit of compassion fatigue,” she said. “So I make sure that I’m reaching out to my colleagues, to my therapist, and that we are having the conversation on how to combat that, and I also make sure that I’m taking care of myself.”

Though tackling the increased workload has been taxing, Berkobien says one bright spot has shone through.

“It’s certainly been a challenge, but it’s been really rewarding because I’ve got to help quite a few pet parents resolve some behavior issues with their dogs or get on the way to resolution.”

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I wanted an eco-friendly alternative to dog waste bags and found Pooch Paper – it’s easy to use and biodegradable

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Pooch Paper package and daschund dog in background
Pooch Paper Dog Waste Sheets are biodegradable and compostable.

  • Pooch Paper Dog Waste Sheets are an eco-friendly, biodegradable alternative to plastic dog poop bags.
  • The sheets are easy to fold up and put in your pocket before heading out on a walk with your dog.
  • They take some getting used to, but are worth it if want to reduce your environmental footprint.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

My two hounds enjoy their walks, and we go on about three a day. I always clean up their waste and then dispose of it in our garbage bin. After a week, the trash gets hauled away and I feel good that the waste wasn’t left on my neighbor’s lawn.

But there’s a problem: I typically use plastic bags to pick up my dogs’ waste. According to this handy calculator from Doody Calls, my two dogs produce 8 pounds of waste each week – that’s 416 pounds each year. I don’t want to think about the number of plastic bags that I use in a week.

Although I typically use bags that are biodegradable, the effectiveness of biodegradable plastic bags has been called into question. That’s why I was excited to find Pooch Paper, an eco-friendly paper alternative to plastic poop bags. The company sent me samples to test for this review.

What makes Pooch Paper eco-friendly?

Pooch Paper review
The sheets have a grease-resistant coating that keeps waste from soaking through the paper.

You can purchase Pooch Paper as a one-month supply (50 sheets) for a single dog, though it may be enough for two if your dogs are small to medium size. Each Pooch Paper sheet is made of recycled non-chlorine-bleached paper and measures 12 inches by 12 inches. They are manufactured using renewable energy and are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.

Sustainability is the company’s number one priority. Its goal is to reduce our plastic footprint and its destructive impact on our environment. Plastics are toxic to most species and can result in the creation of dangerous greenhouse gasses when disposed of in a landfill.

“Our paper is made with recycled, unbleached, uncoated softwood pulp using a machine-finished, sustainable manufacturing process,” said Tracy Rosensteel, the founder of Pooch Paper. She explained that the unbleached paper fiber produces a higher pulping yield, which in turn lessens the overall environmental footprint.

How do Pooch Paper sheets work?

It’s easy to use Pooch Paper to pick up your dog’s waste. A single sheet holds the waste produced by both of my dogs on a single walk. The texture of the paper took a few days to get used to, but the grease-resistant coating made from corn helps get the waste up into the sheet in just one try.

The instructions say to twist the corners around the waste to contain it before you toss it into the garbage bin. Twisting the corners take a little practice and how much waste is in the center of the sheet will determine how much paper is left to twist.

Ideally, after you’ve picked up waste, there will be a space at the top to twist together either the edges or the four corners. The sheet will stay closed, but you’ll have to carry the used paper with one hand unless you have a carrying pouch attached to your waistband. If you do have to carry it with your hands, it’s not inconvenient if it’s a short walk.

The used sheets can go directly into the garbage bin. The FTC’s Green Guide explains that all earth-friendly products must completely break down and return to nature within a reasonably short period of time. I now toss the paper sheets into the garbage can without any guilt.

I carry unused sheets in the 5-inch-by-5-inch zippered Pooch Pouch, which I attach to my leash. It fits about 10 sheets and my house key. You can also attach the pouch to your wrist or belt loop. It is not only practical but also really cute.

The cons

If the waste I’m picking up isn’t solid and firm, it’s a little messy to get it into the Pooch Paper and twist the corners without a lot of fuss.

The paper could also be a bit challenging if you have a large breed dog. When I’m dealing with a bigger amount of waste, it can be difficult to pick up all of it. My recommendation is to use two sheets, and you’ll definitely want to have a pouch to put your sheets into after they’re full.

The bottom line

Pooch Paper is the best eco-friendly option I’ve found for cleaning up after my dogs on walks. After I pick up the waste, it easily fits in a waist pouch, and one sheet is typically enough for both of my dogs. While they aren’t as easy to use as plastic bags, their reduced carbon footprint make them a worthy alternative.

Pros: Manufactured using renewable energy, biodegradable alternative to plastic poop bags, easy to pick up firm waste, one-step process to twist shut

Cons: Can be difficult to clean up loose or large amount of waste, requires a separate pouch to carry used sheets on longer walks

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