10 Essential Dog Products

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If there’s any silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that animals are being adopted at record rates. Pets improve our lives in so many ways, but they’re also a big responsibility, requiring a great deal of love, care, and attention – not to mention stuff!

So today we’re taking a look at a roundup of specifically dog product essentials – everything you need when you bring home your new best friend for the first time, or great upgrades to stuff you already have!

According to the American Pet Products Association, people spent over $72 Billion on their pets in 2018. There’s so much stuff for dogs out there, how do you know what’s really worth your hard-earned money? I’ll show you my favorite dog products that I’ve thoroughly tested and can recommend as high-quality and great value for the money. Not all dog products are highly differentiated – sometimes a water bowl is just a water bowl – so I’m going to focus on the stuff I really like and if there’s more you want to see, ask in the comments section!

By the way, the real star of this episode is Lucy, our adopted Lab mix. She is crazy but we love her very much :). Ok, let’s dive in!

Crate / Kennel

Let’s start with one of the most important things your pup needs – a comfy and safe space to call their own! Crate training is incredibly popular, and for good reason – it allows you to safely leave your doggo at home without worrying about them getting into things they shouldn’t, protecting both your stuff and them from harm.

Based on a recommendation from a friend, we went with the AmazonBasics Double Door Folding Metal Dog Crate and have been really happy with it. Here’s what I like about it: the double doors make it easier to clean / grab stuff from inside (like the Kong we put peanut butter in to distract Lucy when we leave). I like how it folds down flat pretty easily for transport. I also like this plastic tray that’s included – if there’s accidents, this should protect your floor from the worst of it!

In terms of size, we went a little on the bigger side, but experts say it should be big enough so Fido can completely turn around inside, but not much bigger.

Crate Bed

Now let’s look at the bed that goes inside the crate. We struggled with beds when we first got Lucy – she’s definitely a chewer and tore through any thing soft. So for her own protection (I really didn’t want some bit of foam causing a blockage anywhere), I launched a search for an indestructible, truly-chew proof dog bed. My research led me to the Cadillac of dog beds (does anyone even say “the Cadillac of X anymore?): Kuranda.

Made in the USA, Kuranda is the top choice of shelters everywhere because they are the most durable dog beds, period. They also have amazing customer service. I accidentally ordered the wrong model bed, set it up, and Lucy used it for a few days. They were willing to exchange it for the correct one. I felt bad but was so appreciative of their flexibility!

This is the Slimline Crate Bed with the Heavy Duty Vinyl fabric. It’s specifically designed to fit snugly into the most popular crate sizes. It has shorter legs to maximize headroom for your pup, and an overall slimmer profile than their standard line – you’d notice that the frame is rectangular and overall smaller in footprint than the rounded bed. The day I got this bed, I slept better because I wasn’t worried about her chewing anymore! The Heavy Duty 40oz Vinyl is great – even when she scratches it to “make her bed,” it doesn’t make the slightest dent.

Is the Kuranda more expensive? Yes, but it’s the last dog bed you’ll ever buy. At the rate I was replacing her other beds, we would have easily surpassed what we paid for the Kuranda in a short period of time!

Crate Water Bowl

One last tip – If you’re looking for a simple way to provide water in the crate that’s not too easy to spill, you might try this one from Ethical Pet. The ring holder attaches directly to the crate bars, and the bowl itself can be removed and refilled easily. Obviously you should monitor this to make sure your pup doesn’t try to chew it so they don’t hurt themselves – Lucy leaves it alone but every dog is different!

Leash

Ok, next let’s talk about going for a walk! Being forced to move and exercise is one of the greatest benefits of owning a dog, I’ve found, but you need the right gear before you step out the door. Let’s start with the leash. There are hundreds of different leashes made out of all types of materials, so it’s hard to go REALLY wrong – except for retractable leashes. I hate them. I understand that if you have mobility issues and very small dogs (I’m thinking of my grandma here) and getting tripped up on a leash might be a matter of life and death for YOU, it can be acceptable. But in almost every other situation, I can’t recommend a retractable leash for dogs above 10lbs that you want to have any control over during a walk. They’re just not designed for that.

Instead, a simple 7ft non-retractable leash is all you really need. This one has some reflective material woven in, which I like, and a padded handle, which is nice when Lucy decides to take off in a different direction from where I’m heading. I also like the D ring at the top for a poop bag holder, which is a nice secure way to attach it to the leash.

Leash Waste Bag Dispenser

While we’re on the subject, this Stash Bag, as they call it, is from RUFFWEAR. I really like this thing! My brother got it for me for Christmas and I’ll never go back to the cheap plastic poop bag dispensers I used before. I love how it securely attaches to the leash in two places, so it doesn’t flop around like crazy while at an all out sprint, another huge drawback to the ol’ plastic pill shaped thingies.

Because my running shorts don’t have pockets, and I’d rather not worry about my keys flying out of my pocket even if they did, I love sticking my house keys inside (there’s a dedicated key-hook) and tightly zipping the bag shut. There’s definitely room for a few other small items inside, and while not waterproof, there’s some mild protection from light rain.

Pro-tip – at some point in your dog owning life, despite your very best efforts and intentions, your dog will poop somewhere and you will have run out of bags. I keep an emergency bag for just those situations folded up in the outside front pocket.

Waste Bags (Poop Bags)

Let’s talk about those “waste bags” – a term more suitable for polite society, I suppose. After trying some from several different brands, we’ve finally landed on these ones from Amazon Basics. They are very inexpensive when purchased in bulk, and although nothing about plastic is eco-friendly, these have been treated with an EPI additive, which is supposed to make them biodegradable in a much shorter time-span than traditional plastic bags. And if you’re not sold on the RUFFWEAR stash bag, they do come with one of those dumb plastic dispensers I was talking about earlier.

Gentle Leader

When it comes to the walk experience, I’ve saved the best for last. When we first got Lucy, walks were crazy. She dragged us along, straining against her collar. It wasn’t fun for anyone! So we sought the counsel of some good friends who successfully trained their dogs not to pull on walks – what was their secret?

The Gentle Leader of course! What is it? It’s basically a head collar that adds some additional control to the walk by gently redirecting your pup’s head back to you. Essentially, it makes it so Lucy can’t as easily put her full weight against pulling forward, and if she does, it gently turns her attention back to you for instruction, which is how it should be. Or it just makes her neck muscles super strong. Either way, with the gentle leader and some obedience classes, there’s a night and day difference. While I think she’d make a fantastic sled dog, your daily stroll is not the Iditarod!

Also you don’t have to figure out how to make the transition on your own – there’s a helpful DVD (if you still have a DVD player somewhere?) that comes with it showing how to fit it to your dog properly. Then it shows you how to train your dog to walk with it. Very inexpensive gear that can make a big difference!

Slow Feeder Bowl

So, you just got back from an amazing walk, and now it’s dinner time! Lucy is very “food motivated,” to use a technical term (hey, aren’t we all?). She loves food so much that she was scarfing it down without even really chewing. So I thought to myself – self, I wonder if there’s some stuff out there that can help with this? Sure enough, there is!

This is the Slow Feeder Dog Bowl by Outward Hound. They come in different colors / designs, but the idea is that they minimize scarfing by only allowing access to a certain amount of kibble at a time. You can see how, especially towards the end, she really has to hunt around and position herself to get at the kibble. She still eats crazy fast, but it’s definitely an improvement.

goDog Toys

So, mealtime is over and your furry friend has had a chance to digest – time to play! Yeah I’ve made that mistake before, by the way. What a mess. Anyway! What toys are best for playtime?

Lucy is a destroyer of toys. Like an expert interrogator, she quickly finds the weakest point and starts tearing it apart. So we went through a few rounds of cute stuff that she disemboweled. Then we went so far on the other indestructible end that she didn’t really enjoy playing with them at all.

We found a great compromise in these toys from GoDog. Out of all the toys we’ve tried, these are the ones she plays with the most and have endured the longest. She likes making them squeak but hasn’t been able to tear them apart, despite her best efforts! Highly recommend.

Car Seat Protector

Lastly, what if you want to take your dog for a ride in the car, and want to protect your seats while also providing a more comfortable journey for your pup? This dog hammock goes in your back seat and not only keeps dirt contained and minimizes the risk of scratching up leather, but it also eliminates the chance of falling down into the footwell area in the case of a sudden stop. We’ve tested it on 13 hour car rides, and with Lucy’s bed back there, she’s comfortable and enjoys having her own space.

So that about sums up the list of dog gear essentials. There’s so many other amazing products out there for dogs, but hopefully this will help lay a great foundation for a happy life with your furry best friend!

Tl;dr: This is a roundup of my favorite dog product essentials, for new dog owners looking for a checklist or those looking to upgrade what you already have!