How to Create the Best Holiday Gift Basket for your Dog

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company. The opinions and text are all mine.


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I've had MaQ for five years and it was the month of December when we first met. That day still feels like it was yesterday. Every holiday season I can't help but go overboard on getting him gifts. My reasons are, there's always an occasion to spoil my dog and I'm just really grateful for him and love him to bits! We have been through a lot together and he has taught me so much along the way. He's not just a pet, or a friend - he's family. Which is why I couldn't resist buying these treats during a recent trip to Walmart. And I wanted to share some other fun gift ideas along with the treats to make the perfect stocking/gift basket for your dog! I'll even be showing you how to wrap it up into one gift! And believe me when I say this, it is completely painless and easy! (The way present wrapping should be intended! Ha ha!)

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1. Milk-Bone Flavor Snacks

Milk-Bone Flavor Snacks feature the same teeth cleaning and vitamin-enriched goodness of Milk-Bone Original biscuits in five delicious flavors your dog will love. Your dog always does so much to show you their unconditional love. Return that expression of love by treating them with a yummy Milk-Bone biscuit. For dogs of all sizes. 

2. Pup-Peroni

Sharing these tasty treats is a great way to provide contagious joy for both dogs & dog parents. With more real beef* and a mouthwatering aroma it's no wonder dogs simply can't resist Pup-Peroni Original Beef Flavor dog snacks. Don't forget to take a package along so you can treat your pup wherever you pal around! *Than the leading soft and chewy dog snack competitor 

3. Any Christmas-Themed Stuffed Animal

One of MaQ's favorite toys are stuffed animals, so much so, we created a game called the "Identification Game" where he can literally I.D. over twenty stuffed animals he owns. That's how smart my boy is! I went with a Christmas tree and a reindeer to build upon his vocabulary. Though I somehow believe he already knows what these words mean after five years together, ha ha! 

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4. A Fresh New Dish

It's always a good idea to replace your dog's dish/bowl after a while, right? What better time than now to get a fresh new one? I like this one because it's not made out of metal, and the color is super cute! I also can appreciate that it is a larger size as MaQ is a pretty big guy and does eat a lot! 

5. It's the Little Things

On top of stuffed animals, MaQ is also obsessed with balls, like most German Shepherds. Of course, I had to add a couple of (red & green color-coordinated with the holiday season, naturally) them into the gift basket. Lastly, a super cute Naughty/Nice red bone toy and red & green play rope for the finishing touches. 

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I assembled these gifts in one basket! I used the same plastic wrap that is used for flower bouquets and such, starting with the bowl and adding the treats and toys after. Once everything was inside, I tied a red satin ribbon around the top to close it and also make it look festive and adorable. What do you guys think of my gift basket idea? What kind of items would you put in your gift basket for your pooch? You can find Pup-Peroni Original Beef Flavor Dog Treats (25 oz.) and the Milk-Bone Flavor Snacks at your local Walmart in the pet treat aisle. For more info go here

LOVE & XX'S,

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How to Take the Best Pictures of Your Dog

WEARING: LASSO DOGS LEASH & CAMERA STRAP | UNIQLO DOWN VEST | 
BDG JEANS | CHIC ALLOY MATTED SUNGLASSES |
NIKE REVOLUTION 3 RUNNING SHOES IN BLACK | LULULEMON RUN WITH ME NECK WARMER

Happy Monday! I've been working hard on creating the best content I can for you guys! I'm booked up solid until the end of the first week of November with new upcoming stories, as overwhelming and crazy as it's ever been, I cannot wait to share everything we have in store for you! From more fall looks to even a special feature interview, today we're covering how to take the best pictures of your dog! Here are 8 tips on making this somewhat challenging task more enjoyable for everyone involved. :)

1. CARRY HIGH-QUALITY EQUIPMENT

This goes without saying. And I'm not talking technical equipment such as the camera or lens, but other factors that need to be considered when doing dog photography. Like a 100+ pound wolflike dog that will need a good steady leash in between takes, which is why I use Lasso's rudder leash and matching camera strap. What's great is the customization options Lasso has - you can choose length, size and colors for each. I went with a 36 inch camera strap because of my small petite frame, but you can choose from a selection of lengths. Same with the leash. And I can't forgot about footwear and eyewear. When photographing MaQ, I will always be in sneakers. My go-to pair for the past year are the Nike 3 Revolution running shoes. And recently, I've been obsessed with the Chic Alloy matted sunglasses. If I can't see and/or move for photo shoots, we might have a problem. :) 

2. PERFECT TIMING

I'm not talking about f-stops or shutter speed, but more about being in tune with your dog's energy and vibe. Looking for a regal portrait? Draining your dog's energy with exercise before the shoot can help you and your dog be in a more calm, relaxed state. If you're opting for more action shots, the photo shoot itself will provide the exercise! Save that energy for this kind of shoot. This also goes with trust and training. It has taken a lot of time and work to get MaQ to pose the way he does. Our bond is undeniable and it shows in our pictures, but when people ask me how I get my dog to be so still and focused in photos, it's all on training, timing and dedication. 

3. DECIDE ON YOUR LOCATION/BACKGROUND

Will you two be in a park? Or on the streets of a bustling city such as ours in this post? Being prepared comes in handy when shooting with your furry baby. Know what to bring for certain settings and environments, such as warmer months of the year, carry water to stay hydrated. Extra batteries never hurt either. The more aware you are of your surroundings for a shoot will only better your comfortability and chances of getting the shot(s) you really want. That's where the magic really starts to happen!

4. KEEP SETTING/ENVIRONMENT NATURAL & RELAXED

It's important to get your dog used to the sights and sounds of his surroundings as well. And it's even more crucial for you yourself to try and stay as calm and relaxed as possible. I try to stay away from squeaky baby-talk or shouting uncontrollable things to my boy during a shoot. Calling his name once or twice is usually enough, though sometimes like a teenaged kid, his attention span lessens and I have to get a bit more firm with a 'watch me' command. When he hears this, he knows it's time to stay focused. And he is ready to please. All in all, the goal is to always make any experience a positive one. One that is fun & engaging for both of you!

5. TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES

I've always believed in out of the ten times you're trying at something, doesn't matter what it is, you may get one good bite/hit/whatever word you would like to insert here to describe it. This also applies in taking pictures. The more you take, the better chance you'll have in getting those amazing shots. Candid ones are the best in this type of scenario. And the more time you spend with a camera, the more you will learn and grow in the process. 

6. TURN OFF FLASH

In my opinion the best form of light is natural sunlight. It is perfect for pet photography too. However, if you really need to use a flash, especially indoors, try to use an off-camera flash and turn it upwards so the light's bouncing off the ceiling and not your dog giving them demon eyes. Ha ha ha! 

7. GET YOUR DOG'S ATTENTION

Stock up on dog treats and toys! Positive reinforcement also brings an overall positive experience. Each time you reward your pooch after getting the shot(s) you want, makes the time spent together an awesome one. How can you get your dog to look straight into the lens of the camera? Bring their favorite toy or treat and hover it over the camera to entice them. For example, MaQ, like many German Shepherds, has an extreme high level of ball drive, so we use his all-time favorite Chuck-It ball for photo shoots. He could focus on that ball all day long. This is a great way to get their undivided attention. :)

8. GET ON YOUR DOG'S LEVEL

Literally meeting eye-to-eye with your dog will help them see you as an equal, that it's not an alpha moment but an experience to share together. And a good one at that! By also doing this, you can think outside the box in terms of angles and composition as most think to photograph their pet from above first. So get ready to get on the ground and perhaps get a little dirty... trust me it'll be worth it! ;)


Sponsored post in collaboration with LASSO & DRESS LILY.

photos + videography by Gilles Decamps & Suzanne Spiegoski

Our latest pet lifestyle video, 'How to Take the Best Pictures of Your Dog!' 8 Tips + Full story on the blog at www.suzannespiegoski.com and to get more info on the featured leash & camera strap go to itslasso.com photos + videography by Suzanne Spiegoski & Gilles Decamps Be sure to Subscribe for new videos every week http://bit.ly/21XFK0K 

LOVE & XX'S,

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5 Tips on Dog Walking Etiquette in a Big City

WEARING: ANIMAL HEARTED 'I ❤️ MY GERMAN SHEPHERD TANK TOP | 
FOREVER 21 CUFFED DENIM SHORTS | LASSO RUDDER LEASH 

Happy Thursday, everyone! I'm delighted about the short work week! We are looking forward to the weekend, where we spend most of our time outside walking MaQ and having fun. But, having a massive German Shepherd in a city such as New York, does have its setbacks and challenges. But I'm all for being resourceful, so with that, today I'm sharing with you my 5 tips on dog walking etiquette in a big city, like the New York metropolitan area!  

1. KNOW YOUR DOG

Knowing your dog's strengths and flaws along with what and who your dog's likes and dislikes are, will bring more awareness when you're out and about. They also say dogs are mirror images to their owners, so be mindful of who you are. If you're an anxious person, you're pet will more than likely be as well. This is also the time to put away the phones! Stop scrolling and pay attention to your surroundings and your dog. But don't forget to enjoy your time together and the little moments that really matter the most. 

2. LEAD THE WAY

When it comes to leadership, you want to do this as soon as possible with your dog. As the Alpha pack leader, you must always be the first to enter or exit out of any passageway, may that be a door, elevator, etc. Not only does this demonstrate who is the leader, but this is also demonstrates self-control. Having your dog sprint outside can cause many behavioral issues such as over-excitement, anxiety and other bad manners. Not everyone, dogs included, like to see a ginormous wolf-like hound bursting out of a door first. When it comes to your daily walks, which is approximately 1.5 - 2 hours a day with MaQ in the city, you also lead the way. Remember, you're walking the dog not the other way around. Training your dog to hell is very important and an essential tool for you on your walks. Forging isn't as bad - this is when your dog is walking slightly past your feet. It's actually a great preventative for dogs who ten to go looking for scraps on the streets of a bigger city. This way, you have a better chance of catching them before they consume it. Overall, leading on walks puts you, in your dog's mind, as the pack leader. This makes them much more trainable because they will be aiming to please you non-stop, and they will also be more obedient - making walks a pleasure rather than a nightmare.  

3. ALWAYS ASK FIRST

Regardless how much you love dogs, and trust me on this, as I'm a total dog lover myself, you should always ask permission if you'd like to approach someone's pet. The same should go with your dog meeting other dogs. You can never know, at first glance, if a dog is friendly, aggressive or even a service dog of some kind, especially on some of those harnesses that clearly label, 'DO NOT PET', some still may miss it while overdosing on cuteness overload. :)

4. KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH AT ALL TIMES

Walking the streets of New York, I can tell you I've had my fair share of experiences when it comes to seeing many owners walk their dogs unleashed! This frightens people, especially with certain larger breeds that people are opted to be more scared of. In a city like ours, it is best to keep your dog on a leash as a protector from all the street and people traffic. Of course, dog parks and other places like this are an exception. But being out in public with hundreds of people walking around all the time, it's just better for everybody. 

5. PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG

Lastly... ever see that Sex & the City episode when Carrie steps in a knee-deep pile of poo-poo while in Paris? Yeah, no one wants that! I too have had my fair share with these encounters and if it's not too much to ask (literally takes 30 seconds of your life), please pick up after your dog!  

Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to check out the full video for this post on our YouTube channel! Got some questions after reading this article? Leave them down below in the comment box! Hope you all have a great rest of the week! 


Sponsored post in collaboration with LASSO & Animal Hearted

photos + videography by Gilles Decamps | director, editing, & styling by Suzanne Spiegoski

Greetings from the Big Apple! A {NEW VIDEO} is now up on our channel! We're sharing 5 Tips on Dog Walking Etiquette in a big city, such as the New York metropolitan area! 

LOVE & XX'S, 

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Grey Tones

WEARING: H&M LONG GREY SUIT JACKET | H&M LONG SLEEVE GREY SHIRT
FOREVER 21 STRETCHY HIGH-RISE SKINNY JEANS 
STEVEN MADDEN NOBLE STONE PEEP TOE SHOE BOOT | GUCCI DIANA SATCHEL

One of my ultimate dreams in New York City has come true! It was so hard to keep it hush-hush for about a week now, but I am delighted and very excited to finally be able to tell you guys all about it! Sometime last week, I was having a very rough start to my morning and was really feeling under the weather, but I like to start my day by taking walks with MaQ, especially when I'm feeling down. Just the two of us roaming the streets of New York never fails to inspire me to keep going.

That morning was kind of cold. You know, those spring mornings where it's only slightly warm being in the sun. I was going to keep it a brisk walk and take MaQ out for a longer one later on in the day, as I had so much work to do. But, because I wasn't feeling 100% and the fact that I walk around to clear my head, I opted for a longer route and went to one of his favorite parks in New York City, Washington Square Park. He loves to find sticks to chew and play with, accompanying me while I people-watch and take snapshots. Suddenly, a deep male voice from behind said, "Excuse me, do you mind if I take a picture of your dog?" But before I could reply, he graciously continued. "I run The Dogist... I'm not sure if you've heard about us..."

My jaw dropped to the ground and I was beaming. Ever since Elias Weiss Friedman had created The Dogist in October of 2013, I've been following him religiously. With nearly 2 million followers on Instagram and over 10,000 photos of dogs from around the world, he's got my (well one at least) dream job, chasing dogs and traveling. I just never saw the man behind the camera! We had a blast shooting with Elias and his assistants, MaQ took his role as a supermodel VERY seriously. Come take a look at his AMAZING portrait shot HERE!

To see more incredible portraits of dogs by The Dogist, go to thedogist.com

Lastly, here's my look of the day! Grey tones meet casual chic with a long suit jacket from H&M, Steve Madden open-toe ankle booties and Forever 21 skinny jeans. It's one of my favorite comfy go-to looks. You can totally keep doing your #GIRLBOSS thang in this outfit. Sadly, due to grey tones not only being a part of this look, the weather did not allow us to film this look for the week. Boo, to rain! But don't worry, more to come soon, soon, soon! Stay tuned...

Photos by Gilles Decamps

Styling & Editing by Suzanne Spiegoski

LOVE & XX'S,

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Best Snow Day Ever!

WEARING: UNIQLO DOWN COAT WOMEN IN BROWN,
 LULULEMON RUN WITH ME NECK WARMER & FROSTY RUN GLOVES,
 FOREVER 21 POM BEANIE HAT, WOMEN'S SOREL CARIBOU WINTER BOOTS.
MaQ & I enjoying Blizzard Jonas . New York City, January 23, 2016. ©  Gilles Decamps

MaQ & I enjoying Blizzard Jonas. New York City, January 23, 2016. © Gilles Decamps

Hey there! Just another manic Monday! This weekend, New York City almost broke the record for the biggest blizzard here to date. We made it to the second most largest snowstorm, piling up with over two feet of snow. (26.8 inches of it to be exact!) We had a blast, to say at the very least, especially my boy, MaQ, who LOVES the cold and even more so, the pow pow!

Start of Winter Storm Jonas, New York City, 14th Street, January 2016.

Start of Winter Storm Jonas, New York City, 14th Street, January 2016.

I think a lot of New Yorkers like myself kind of scoffed at the idea of a big bad snowstorm because in recent years, the meteorologists have been far from being accurate. What can you do, you can't predict Mother Nature! We even got more snow than D.C. had initially planned on getting! But the city is back up and running today, except in some boroughs like Queens who basically got the short end of the stick when it came to snow maintenance on the residential streets. So how did we enjoy the weekend?

"Let's play all day, every day, always and forever." -MaQ's mantra

"Let's play all day, every day, always and forever." -MaQ's mantra

By playing like children, of course! :) MaQ had way too much fun frolicking in the snow. I love watching him roam around in the deep snow banks because he prances around like Bambi. He just can't get enough of it! We played for hours on Saturday morning before it really started to come down hard. We went to the Stuyvesant dog run where we relished in a snowball fight and ran around with other doggy pals full of light-hearted laughter and youthful grins. ♥

Want to see some real-live action of my fur baby? Check out the slow-motion video of MaQ running through the snow! I love how he always checks on me, even when I'm videotaping him! Show off. ;) To see more videos of MaQ and I in our daily adventures, please subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Who's ready for a snowball fight?!

Who's ready for a snowball fight?!

On Sunday, we went out first thing in the morning for round 2. We trudged through deep snow taking in the aftermath of Jonas before stopping to run and romp around in blankets and blankets of the unpaved snowfall. As an original Michigander, I'm quite used to the massive amounts of the white stuff but there's something so magical and peaceful about the city after a huge blizzard. This was my fourth or fifth big snowstorm since being in New York.

The happiest boy!

The happiest boy!

But being from the Midwest, I'm pretty prepared when it comes to the winter season. Especially when it comes to attire. MaQ may have a double-layered coat, but as for myself, I need a few extra layers to keep me warm! ;)

How I feel about going back indoors.

How I feel about going back indoors.

I always wear my trusty Uniqlo down coat to stay extra bundled. It's got a wonderful zipped hood that you can detach should you not want to wear it. When it comes to keeping my hands and neck warm, I never leave the house without my Lululemon gloves and scarf. And I adore pom beanie hats! They are too cute. And the best winter boots during this season in NYC? Sorel boots all the way. With all the mushy and slushy puddles at every crosswalk, you got to have some serious waterproof footwear!

The best of friends.

The best of friends.

What are some of your everyday winter wear? Like to layer up or keep it simple? What are some of your favorite brands for this season? I really love and have always loved the heat-tech from Uniqlo. It keeps you very warm without weighing you down and is the perfect addition with other forms of layering.

You want to go back inside?! Quick! Hide!

You want to go back inside?! Quick! Hide!

We hope you and your pooch had a marvelous weekend! What are some of your favorite activities to do with your best furry friend in this kind of weather? Whatever it may be, we hope you stay cozy and safe out there. Have a great week.

The most beautiful, magnificent creature I have ever known. I love you dearly. x. ♥

The most beautiful, magnificent creature I have ever known. I love you dearly. x. ♥

Love & xx's,