It can be lonely at the top. Russian president Vladimir Putin knows that more than anyone. He faces street protests at home and intense criticism from his fellow world leaders abroad. If anyone deserves a free puppy, it's him.

Luckily, the president of Turkmenistan has got loads of Asian Sheepdogs knocking around at home. And, guess what? He's visiting Russia. Happy birthday Mr Putin!

Turkmen leader Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known locally as "The Protector", met with the ex-KGB man in Sochi to try and flog him some gas. If there's one thing we know about Central Asian business deals, it's that nothing sugars up the man across the table like a free miniature canine.

Officially, Berdymukhamedov gave Putin the puppy as a late 65th birthday, which passed on 7 October. The dog is called "Verny", which means faithful in Russian. It is an Alabai, or Central Asian Shepherd Dog, native to Turkmenistan and neighbouring countries.

"We have a common friend – this is the world's unique Alabai dog. And today I brought this little alabai with me," the Turkman said as he picked Verny up by the scruff of his neck with the confidence of man who's entered one too many puppy-throwing competitions.

Dog lover Putin appeared to be resisting the urge to intervene on behalf of the little guy. When he finally got his hands on his new best friend he cradled it tenderly, kissed it on the head and whispered something in its ear, which may or may not have been a promise to never buy gas from Turkmenistan again.

Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov Putin puppy dog
Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov looked happier than VernyReuters
Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov Putin puppy dog
Russian President Vladimir Putin receives a puppy from strongman Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov Maxim Shemetov / Reuters
Putin kissing puppy dog
Russian President Vladimir Putin kisses his new best friendMaxim Shemetov / Reuters

Russia stopped buying fossil fuels from the authoritarian state last year after a disagreement over price. Turkmenistan, a gas-rich nation, has since had to turn to China as its main market. Berdymukhamedov is hoping the talks in Sochi, a Black Sea resort, will result in some lucrative contracts with the former superpower. If they don't, he may well ask for his dog back.

He's unlikely to get it. Vladimir Putin is good at holding onto things. Like the Russian presidency, to give one example.

Berdymukhamedov is not the first leader to give Putin a dog. Japan and Bulgaria have also tried to curry favour this way.