Bringing home the new canine addition to your family is fun and exciting. It also comes with questions, especially if this is your first go-round as a pet parent. The big one is: What do I need to buy?
The array of options can be overwhelming, rivaling the amount of gear available for human babies. How do you know what’s worth your money? That can seem like a daunting question, particularly when you need to get everything ready fast. Yet the answer is simple, really: Ask a vet. So we did. Five of them, in fact. And here are the items they recommend to their clients, buy for their own pups or both.
Before you get shopping, remember that the first job of doggie parenthood is finding your own veterinarian. “The saying ‘You have nothing without your health’ is applicable not just to us, but to our pets as well,” notes veterinarian Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. “You need a veterinarian who you feel comfortable discussing your concerns with.”
Meal time is the best time in a dog’s eyes. “This excitement leads many dogs to scarf their food down, which can lead to potentially deadly stomach flipping and bloat,” says Chris Menges, a veterinarian in Austin, Texas working in digital pet care delivery. It’s a particular danger in breeds with deep chests, such as great Danes, German Shepherds and boxers. “This bowl slows down even the fastest eater to a healthier pace,” he says.
Even if your dog is microchipped, it’s important to make sure they’re wearing a collar with your contact information just in case they get lost, urges Barrack.
This lightweight aluminum tag can be customized on the front and back, and is available in eight designs.
“A quick-release collar allows you to quickly take it off if it gets stuck on something,” says Zay Satchu, veterinarian at Bond Vet in Brooklyn, New York.
The right fit is key. “A properly-fitted collar will allow you to have no more or less than two fingers between the dog’s neck and the collar,” she says.
In a world of nylon collars, this handmade, soft leather option will stand out at the dog park. It’s also available in brown.
The Petcube is a great tool to stay connected with your dog while you’re away from home. “This remote webcam allows you to see what your dog is up to, but also to interact with him with speech and by dispensing treats!” says Menges.
Tooth and gum infections can be serious in dogs, so taking care of their teeth is a must, says Satchu. She recommends an enzymatic pet toothpaste. (Never use your own toothpaste on your dog’s teeth.)
Of course, many dogs do not exactly look forward to getting their teeth brushed. A easy-grip design, like this brush has, helps you get the job done. The gel toothpaste cleans their chompers with baking soda, and aloe freshens that stinky breath.
Getting your buddy a bed does more than just keep him out of yours. “It’s a great way to aid in training. You can train them to go to their bed as a safe place for him to retreat,” notes Satchu. She suggests looking for a bed with a removable cover, so that it’s easy to keep it fresh and clean for your fur baby. “Also, if you will be crating your dog, ensure it fits inside the crate,” she says.
In four sizes and 18 (removable and machine-washable) fabric covers, this cozy sleep spot will fit your pooch — and your decor — just right. The orthopedic base makes it extra comfortable, especially for older dogs and bigger breeds.
Dogs that have not had much in the way of nail clipping as puppies often resist it later in life, says Albert Ahn, veterinarian for Myos Pet in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey. For this tricky job, the right tool can mean the difference between frustration and a perfect pupper pedicure. “I recommend this stainless steel nail trimmer, because it has a nonslip grip and a safety stop to prevent injury,” he says.
While these don’t replace a proper tooth cleaning, dental chews can help keep your dog’s teeth clean, says Heidi Cooley, veterinarian Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington. “Many dogs love the flavor of dental chews,” she observes. Your dog’s chewing is what enables them to do their work, she adds.
The unique texture on each of these functional treats makes short work of sticky gunk on teeth. They’re made with chicken (but not by-products, and without artificial colors.)
“I prefer a hands-free leash like this one,” shares Menges. “Not only does this leash clip around your waist, so no losing your grip on your dog, but it also has dual bungee cords built in to help protect you if the dog pulls too much.”
Plus, reflective material is woven into it to keep you visible at night.
The best dog toys are those that engage and stimulate your pet’s senses. “Toys that are interactive — such as those that can be filled with kibble — keep your pet stimulated for longer periods of time,” says Cooley.
You’ve seen your dog sniffing around on the lawn, as if they’re searching for buried treasure, right? Make their dreams come true with this play mat. Hide bits of food or treats amid the blades of grass. It won’t skid across the floor, and can be tossed in the washing machine. (It also comes as a sunflower. Good luck choosing.)
Dogs like hanging at the beach, lake or pool as much as we do. But contrary to popular belief, they don’t naturally know how to swim. “Dogs participating in water activities should wear flotation devices,” says Cooley. “Look for a life jacket that has a handle that enables you to assist your pet out of the water in an emergency.”
With this vest, your ferocious fishie will steal hearts while staying safe. It has the requisite handle, along with a D-ring for a leash for strolls along a pier or boat docks. It also comes in orange and gray.
We have yet to meet a dog who doesn’t like to chase a ball. “Look for a ball with a hollow center to allow airflow while they have it in their mouth,” urges Satchu. (Whatever you do, don’t give your dog a tennis ball. “They act like a nail file on teeth, wearing them down,” she adds.)
This vented ball is lightweight, but will stand up to endless rounds of fetch. It also floats, so if it lands in the pool, the fun doesn’t have to stop for long.
Your dog’s leash should be attached to a harness. Putting it on a collar creates unhealthy pressure on the neck, warns Menges. He calls this harness “wonderful.” It’s nicely padded for comfort and has mesh panels to keep your cutie cool on warm days. It also boasts an unusual, handy feature: a soft handle, in case you need to get quick control of your dog.
Poop happens. And you need to clean it up, whenever and wherever it does. Barrack suggests picking up a holder expressly made for that purpose that can be attached to your dog’s leash, “so you never leave home without them.”
As you surely know if you’ve ever tried to pick up your dog’s poop out of grass at night, an LED light is a genius feature. This set comes comes with lavender-scented bags which are big enough to hold the leave-behinds of two dogs too.
Dog + boredom = trouble. Keep them away from your shoes and potted plants with a puzzle toy, suggests Menges. His favorite is this sturdy rubber toy that rewards canine ingenuity with treats. “This engages their brains to solve puzzles and make them feel like the masters of their domain,” he says. Even if their domain is just the sunny spot next to the couch.
Who knew that just like humans, dogs can get sunburned, especially on their ears and nose. Applying sunscreen before a day of outdoorsy fun is extra important if your pet is thin-haired, hairless or unpigmented. Staffordshire terriers, boxers, bull terriers, German shorthaired pointers and pit bulls are particularly susceptible, says Cooley. Ingredients in human sunscreens can cause gastrointestinal problems if dogs ingest it, so “sunscreens made specifically for pets are your safest choice,” she says.
Aerosol sprays can get in your pup’s eyes and lungs, so this non-aerosol sunscreen can be applied with much more control. And it brings the bonus of conditioning and detangling your dog’s coat.
“Taking your dog with you on a hike or a trip to the park is extremely relaxing in difficult times like these,” says Menges. “You can make doing that easier with a car hammock.” He likes this one from Active Pets because it’s “water- and dirt-proof, and the hammock style prevents dogs from falling off the back seat.”
When you’re traveling with your dog, or even if just spending a warm day at the dog park, being able to provide water to your dog is a must, says Satchu. She’s a fan of this bottle by Petkit. “It has a built-in bowl, and will filter any leftover water back into the reservoir to prevent waste,” she explains. “It also has a locking mechanism to prevent leaks.”
Even the best behaved dogs have an accident occasionally, and regular household cleaners typically can’t handle them. An enzymatic pet stain cleaner will totally neutralize the odors, which will keep your dog from being able to smell their…handiwork. Otherwise, they may give you a repeat performance, says Satchu. She points to Nature’s Miracle as a “great” cleaner for the job.
Hopefully, we’ll all start taking real vacations again soon. When we do, we can bring our canine companions along — with the proper equipment. “I like the Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Carrier, which is a mobile pet bed, in-cabin airplane carrier and car seat,” says Ahn. “Plus it has a padded shoulder strap and is machine-washable.”