Want to interact with your dog while at work? There's new technology that allows you to do just that, and it's sure to be among this year's hot Christmas gifts for pets.

Tech gifts will join traditional popular gift choices like Christmas-themed dog cookies and Santa squeaky toys.

Tech Time

Ted's Feed Store in Lansing recently started selling PetChatz, a device to let pet parents remotely see, hear and give treats to their pets any time through their computer, tablet or smartphone. Owners can check in with a two-way color camera and dispense a treat or a soothing smell when they want.

“They’re coming out with more and more technologies where you can interact with your pet,” says Mary R., store manager at Ted’s Feed Store. This allows owners to track their pet’s physical movements and make sure they don’t just lie on the couch all day.

“I’m sure in the next year, we’ll hear about more and more new products,” she says.

Treat Trends

Locally sourced deer and elk antlers from Indiana are another great gift choice, Mary says. "They’re healthy,” she adds. “They last a long time and they are hard, so dogs have to work on chewing them."

In addition to new trends, the store stocks traditional Christmas treats and toys, which are always popular, she says. In recent years, healthy alternatives have begun joining the ranks.

“Everything is getting healthier,” she says. Pet food has changed dramatically with a shift toward organic, natural and USDA certified. “Everything is a step up and continuing to go that way… Pet owners are more and more concerned about what they are feeding their pets.”

During this month, the store sees an increase in traffic of customers and sales.

Even customers who don’t buy treats when they regularly buy their food, buy their pets and family members’ pets treats for Christmas, she says.

They also see an increase in customers looking for bird feed, and the store sells seasonal wreaths made of suet cake, which make excellent hostess gifts, she adds.

“We have people who buy these wreath-shaped cakes every year,” she says. “You hang it outside and it’s pretty and it’s functional.”

Pampered Pets

Other popular items on pets’ wish lists this year are designer dog cookies, dog and cat apparel and sparkly collars, all available at Hungry Hound in St. John and Hobart. They also carry natural shampoos and conditioners as well as smell-good spritzes for pets who like to look their best at the holidays and all year.

Brett Abatie, general manager of Pet Supplies Plus in Valparaiso, says toys with squeakers are always a hot commodity for man’s best friend. Christmas-themed toys and specialty treats like Blue Buffalo's Santa Snacks will also be popular this year.

"It's a lot of made in USA products like food and treats; customers are looking for that more," he says.

Christmas items started shipping before Halloween with items put on shelves by November, but the major surge in sales comes later in December.

"People do a lot of last-minute shopping for their pets," says Abatie, who has worked at the store for 13 years. "Once they have Timmy’s Xbox and Sally’s American Girl doll, then Fido and Fluffy need something. They feel that every member of the family, no matter how many legs they have, needs some spreading of Christmas spirit."

A plus to shopping for pets is that they are easy to surprise. Abatie jokes, "We have a number of pets that come in and bring their owners to pick their own gifts."

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