They're our dependents who rely on us for food, shelter and good health care. They're not just our best friends; they may be our heads of household, our consiglieri (cue "The Godfather" theme) or our reasons for getting out of bed in the morning -- long before we're ready.
In short, our dogs are our family.
So this holiday season, why not go the extra mile? Give your four-legged kinfolk a holiday basket he'll be sure to not re-gift.
You can customize this basket to suit your buddy's lifestyle. For the road tripper, Muttropolis carries dog car seats, travel bowls, and other clever transportable items. If she treks high-altitude trails, REI offers products for the extreme outdoors dog.
But what are basic items that every dog can use? Let's start with what keeps them coming back: the treats ...
No. 5: The treats
Your nearest Petco carries its own line of holiday treats such as tasty biscuits and cookies with red and green sprinkles for $5.99. Its paw-shaped container adds a nice touch, making it ready for presentation in your gift basket.
PetSmart also offers a variety of Holiday-themed rawhide treats, everything from candy canes and snow men to reindeer and gingerbread men -- all of them excellent choices for healthy chewing.
But where will you put these treats after the unwrapping ceremony? After all, your pooch can't eat these treats in one sitting (or can she?)
No. 4: The treat jar
With a treat jar, you have ready access to tasty nibbles when pooch performs your favorite trick -- or when she begs until you can't stand it anymore. It also comes in handy for our pet sitters so they don't have to search for biscuits and jerky when we're at work or play.
Just about every pet store carries its own line of treat jars. Even stores that don't cater to pets offer stylish options.
Priced for the Real Housewives (Dogs) of Orange County, Muttropolis offers fancy options made of wood or ceramic ranging from $34 to $57. For pooches in the 99 percent, check out the Great Choice line at PetSmart. Made out of plastic, these bone print containers come in three sizes and cost between $6.79 and $8.49.
Treats. Done. Now let's talk wardrobe. How about those Dodgers (or Yankees, or Cardinals)?
No. 3: Sports gear
If you're a sports fanatic, chances are your pooch is too. After all, yelling at the TV when your team is down 13 points minutes before a game ends would rub off on any dog. Sports gear for your canine means you not only have a loyal pal, but a loyal rally dog too.
Hot Dog Collars has an entire section of sports gear for pets. Keep your pooch warm in below freezing temperatures with a jersey bearing your team's colors for between $9.99 and $15.99.
Choose from leashes, collars, dog bowls, toys and dog tags showing team logos from the NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA or your favorite collegiate team, priced at $6 to $20.
A little searching on the websites of your favorite teams might also lead you to other dog novelties. Be sure to search with keywords "dog" or "pet."
And when Mother Nature calls during a big game?
No. 2: Poop bag dispensers
Walks are the highlights of a dog's day. But rushing to find poop bags right before you leave can cause your pooch to whimper with impatience.
The Four Paws Poo-Kins Dog Waste Pickup Bag Dispenser means you're ready to walk out the door after leashing your dog and putting on your shoes.
Available at Petco.com, this fun dispenser attaches to your dog's leash so it's there when you need it.
Petco also carries dispensers that also attach to leashes. Scented companion bags help hide the odor.
Since this is as sexy as this topic is going to get, let's move on to toys.
No. 1: Toys that don't stand a chance
Our canines are good at convincing us that they're smarter than the average dog. They sit and shake on command and bark at strangers to show that they have our backs.
But at the end of the day, they're furry creatures who'll spend 20 minutes chewing their toys to shreds. That's why holiday toys are a must in every dog's gift basket.
Exclusively at a PetSmart and PetSmart.com: toys by Martha Stewart Pets. Pooch can show his affection for Kris Kringle by sinking his teeth into the Santa flat plush toy. After giving that toy a good thrashing, watch him demolish the Gingerbread Man squeak toy.
With many more holiday toys on the market, include a bunch of them for added decor in your pup's basket.