It would be helpful if dogs came complete with suitcases full of all the items they will need throughout their lives. If such a kit existed, what treasures would be included? There'd be lots of cool supplies to keep you and your dog happy, healthy and saying "life's good!"
Food for Fido
Your dog may be begging for junk food but deciding on how to meet his nutrition needs is one of the first of many important decisions you will make. Your vet is the best resource for recommendations, as is the breeder or person from whom you acquired the dog. Be careful not to change food overnight, or you will be up all night sympathizing with a dog with a tummy ache. Among your choices are kibble, canned food, raw food, homemade food or any combination of these, as well as treats, such as biscuits and training aids. Purchase ceramic or stainless steel food and water bowls, as plastic is not as durable and some dogs get a rash from the chemicals in plastic. If your dog is a gobbler, purchase a bowl with a hump in the middle, which will force him to eat more slowly. If you like to take Fido on outings, purchase a specially made store-and-serve water bottle and a canine seat belt apparatus.
Your dog will look pretty fancy all tricked out in a fancy collar full of bling, so go crazy but be sure the collar is affixed with an identification tag inscribed with his name, and your address and phone number. A rabies tag is mandated in most counties. Collars come in adjustable nylon, leather or cloth, but choose one with a buckle collar. You'll have fun choosing the right collar because styles run the gamut from those reflective of pro sports teams to Harley-Davidson motorcycles and collars with lots of colors and sparkles. Avoid the prong, pinch or choke collars unless working under the direct supervision of a trainer who deems it necessary in your case. The trainer also may suggest a head halter. Alternatively, you may choose a harness instead and a variety of those are available as well; some just for comfort and others designed to restrict pulling. Leashes also come in many designs and materials. A six-foot leather or cloth leash is best, as a flexible lead can be dangerous if it gets wrapped around your legs.
For training you will need to enroll in class, or you can take a do-it-yourself approach using videos, books, DVD's or instructions found on the Internet. For training, you will need a bait bag to hold bits of special yummy treats for positive reinforcement training. Treats used only for this purpose encourage your dog to want to learn. If you like clicker training, you will need to purchase a clicker. A nine-foot leash is helpful when it comes time for training your dog to "come" and "stay" if you don't have an enclosed area. You don't want him running away in the middle of a lesson.
If crate training, or using crate training as a means of house breaking, you will need a crate and pad. Choose a suitable size for your dog. He should be able to lie, sit, stand and turn around comfortably. If your dog is a puppy, consider a crate that has a removable "wall" so the crate can grow with your dog. Pee pee pads sometimes are useful depending on the type of dog you have. Avoid them with the larger breeds, they will only prolong the training.
For your dog's well being, you will need to provide him with his own bed if he is not using a crate. All dogs need a "den" to which they can escape when feeling the stresses of the day. Toys and dog chew items also are needed. Choose durable toys that will last a long time, and peruse the so-called "intelligence" games that will keep your dog busy finding ways to release bits of kibble. Avoid chew toys made of rawhide as they can be lethal if they cause intestinal blockage. Depending upon the breed of dog you have, you also may need an assortment of grooming tools, including brushes, combs, slickers and a de-shedding tool, if necessary. Speak to your vet about a suitable toothbrush and poultry-flavored toothpaste. You also may need ear wipes or flush, for ear maintenance, and eye wipes if your dog is prone to brown streaks under the eyes. You have an enormous assortment of shampoos from which to choose for every variety of coat in wonderful scents, as well as coat conditioners and sprays to make for a fragrant Fido. If fleas, ticks or heartworms are a problem in your area, consult your vet on the best preventative for your dog.
That's it! With these items, you will be well equipped and ready to meet all of your best friend's needs.
- The Humane Society of the United States; Complete Guide to Dog Care, by Marion S. Lane, 1998
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.