1. Food and Water Bowl: The bread and butter of owning a dog. Invest in a stainless steel version like PETCO’s Stainless Steel Non-Tip Bowl (from $6; petco.com) for a every-day use. To keep it clean, all you’ll need to do is rinse it out and let it air dry. And you won’t have to worry about breaking it, which is an all-too-common problem with trendier ceramic bowls. For hiking, rafting, and road trips, invest in a collapsible one like Ruffwear’s Bivy Bowl ($20; ruffwear.com), which is wide enough at the top to allow even large breeds to scarf from it, but is light enough (less than two ounces) to fit unnoticeably in the corner your backpack. [Quick tip: For dogs that spill water on the floor while drinking—i.e. every dog out there—Orvis offers a highly-absorbent mat ($39; orvis.com) to keep the kitchen tiles dry and our friends at Wildrose Trading Company offer a spill-proof Buddy Bowl.]
2. Collars: They’re as important as food bowls. Two things that you’ll want to consider: 1. They’re like clothes for your dog. After a while, Fido will look naked without one. 2. As such, using the same collar for more than a few months gets boring. Change it up. Every pet company out there makes a collar, which is perfect. Here are three of the best: 1.) Dublin Dog: The best part about them? They’re stench-free, thanks to the a blend of nonporous polymers. They also come in a variety of colors and sizes. (From $22; dublindog.com) 2.) Filson Leather Dog Collar: Classic. Classy. Durable. The only downside is they’re not waterproof, which means they’re perfect for a German Shorthaired Pointer, but less than ideal for a water-loving Lab. ($36; filson.com) 3.) TufFlex Center Ring Dog Collar: It has the look and feel of leather but it’s made from a special type of plastic that is mildew and bacteria resistant, meaning the collar is maintenance free. Plus, it’s practically indestructible. (From $10)
3. Lead: You can’t walk your dog, or train her to heel, without a good lead. Filson’s Leather Dog Leash ($46; filson.com) is both stylish and effective. For leash work, though, you can’t beat the horse-reign dot tread used in the Wildrose Kennels Combination Training Lead Set ($40; uklabs.com), which, because it’s made from plastic, won’t absorb water, and is damn near chew-proof—not that you should be letting your dog chew on her leash. [Note: retractable leashes are good only if you like teasing your dog—“I’m free! … or not. I’m free! … ow, my neck …”—and instilling bad behaviors like running away at all times.
4. Beds: Some dogs will ignore them and sleep on the carpet. (Grayson’s dog Danger only sleeps on the sofa.) But most dogs end up loving them. Ruffwear’s Mt. Bachelor Pad ($60; ruffwear.com) is easy to clean (i.e. machine-washable), rolls into a beach-towel-sized bedroll for easy transport, and has its velcro straps that are smartly hidden underneath the mat to keep chew-prone dogs from going after them. And REI’s inflatable Dog Dream Bed is so comfortable that if it were two feet longer it would make a perfect camping mat—for humans. ($55; rei.com).
5. Crate: Yes, crate training can be traumatizing (mostly for you and your hippie roommate’s Dr. Doolittle friends, not the dog), but consider it a necessary evil, like your kids’ percussion lessons. The more comfortable a dog is in her crate, the easier it is for you to travel with her—and the more settled they’ll be around the house. Also, they’re great house-training tools. Every time you take her out of the crate, usher her to the same spot in the yard. Just make sure you get the appropriate sized crate: it’s better to be too small at first than too big. For larger breeds that grow quickly, you’re better off investing in a starter crate that’s smaller in size and then getting a full-sized one later on. For the house, Grrreat Choice’s Dog Carrier is a cheap, easy option (from $20; PetSmart.com), and is airline safe. For road trips, get Orvis’s Collapsible Dog Travel Crate (from $179; orvis.com), which can be broken down to fit easily into the trunk or backseat of a car. It’s a little finicky, but durable enough. For young pups or smaller dogs, the SleepyPod Air is perfect for traveling ($160; sleepypod.com). At six weeks old, I drove back from Mississippi (to Santa Fe) with Nolie and she slept nearly the entire way.
6. Poop Scoop: What else can we say: It happens. And you’re going to have to clean it up. Every local pet store will carries a scoop. Bog-box-store PetSmart sells a basic spade and scoop pan for $24 (petsmart.com)—a no-brainer bargain.
7. Indoor Cleaner: As much as we’d all like to think our pup is perfect (or will be), accidents are bound to happen. Be prepared with a pet-specific cleaner like Nature Miracle’s Stain and Odor Remover ($7; ilovenaturesmiracle.com).
8. Grooming Tools/Health-care items: This category could fill it’s own list because of how important it is to keep your pup healthy. But three things you should always have on hand: Brush. Nail trimmer. Saline solution. 1. Brush: It’s a basic self-explanatory item, but different coats will require different types of brushes. A pin brush, which has rounded mental “pins,” is a standard go-to for most breeds but is best for dogs with long-haired, thin coats, because it will easily comb the hair without pulling it out. JW Pet GripSoft Pin Dog Brush is good choice ($10). Curry brushes are better for dogs with smooth coats, like Labs. Top Paw’s Rubber Curry Brush is a great, cheap option. ($8). Slicker brushes, with their narrow, stainless steel pins on a flexible rubber base are the go-to choice for removing knots and tangles. Four Paws Ultimate Touch Slicker Wire Brush is a standard choice ($12). 2. Nail Clipper: Your dog’s nails will grow, and if they grow too long it will increase the chance that they’ll break off while your dog is running on pavement or rocks. As a general rule, the nails should be trimmed when they reach the ground in a standing position. ConairPro Yellow Dog Soft Grip Nail Clippers will do the trick ($10). 3. Saline Solution: This one is often overlooked, but eye issues are an extremely common problem with dogs—especially ones running through tall grass or on dirt trails. They can easily develop an infection from a seed or piece of dirt in their eye. The easiest preventative measure is to wash a dog’ eyes out with a saline solution like Vetericyn Animal Ophthalmic Gel ($30).
9. Toys: Some people let their dogs chew; some don’t. It depends both on the trainer and dog whether chew toys instill bad habits or give the dog a healthy outlet. Without toys, most pups will just make their own—out of your shoes, socks, and table legs. Just keep the “toys” separate from the “training tools”. For retriever-training, Avery’s HexaBumper is cheap and comes in different colors and sizes ($5; averysportingdog.com) while Real Duck’s firehose bumpers are more expensive but have a more natural feel ($20; realduck.com). Around the house, I let my Lab pup chew on a Dublin Dog Roxxter toy ($14; dublindog.com) to keep her from hiding (i.e. losing) all of my socks in the backyard.
10. Food: Last here, but it’s probably the most important item to consider when getting a new pup. The main things to think about are getting your new pup quality protein and fat (the carbs are mostly filler) in the right proportion. Many kibbles these days are too high in protein content. You’ll want food that has about 30-percent protein and 20-percent fat. Some dogs, based on their eventual adult size and how active they are, will require a slightly different ratio of carbs and protein, but this is a good starting point. And make sure the carbs and proteins are coming from quality sources: chicken, lamb, and beef are all fine as long as they’re coming from actual scraps of meat and not just rendered bone, blood, and ligaments. Adding human table scraps—or, if you can, whole chicken backs or low-grade meat from your local meat counter—is a good way to supplement what’s obviously lacking in, well, all dry pellet kibble. Check the labels on all foods and follow their feeding portion guidelines based on how much your dog weighs. As a pup, I fed my Lab Eukanuba’s Puppy Natural Lamb and Rice formula, which has high-quality ingredients, but isn’t ungodly expensive ($27 for a 15-pound bag; eukanuba.com). And one more quick note about food: for young pups—15 weeks or younger—try not to switch foods on them. If they’re started on Eukanuba and you want to switch, gradually mix the other food into the original food. New foods can create problems, both for the pup and your carpet.
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