One of the most confusing aspects about adopting a new dog is trying to decide what his basic needs will be so that you can have everything set up and ready to go when he comes home. Aside from veterinary care and considering pet insurance, here are the top ten essential dog care supplies:
You will almost certainly spend more time trying to choose the right dog food than any other supplies. Before you take your dog’s personal taste preferences into account, you’ll have to determine the right formula to feed your dog (based on weight, age and health issues), budget and availability. If you want to switch brands, be sure to do it gradually so that your dog doesn’t get digestive upset from a too-abrupt change in diet.
A Leash, Collar and Harness
Everybody should have a standard, six-foot leash. They’re strong, easy to use and give you the most control over your dog. Collars and harnesses can be a lot more complicated, and your selection should take your dog’s breed into account.
Most commercial bags come in multi-pack rolls and include a holder that can be fastened to the leash. Ask a pet professional for recommendations; biodegradable bags are good for the environment, but sometimes they can be a little delicate. Nobody wants to put their new manicure through the bottom of an over-full bag, so be sure to check strength and capacity before buying in bulk.
A Dog Bed
Don’t go all out on a top-of-the-line bed right away. Get a no-frills, comfortably thick dog bed with a washable cover and then watch how your dog interacts with it. If your dog likes to curl up in a tight circle under a mound of blankets, you can graduate to a bed with a high rim or even a cozy cave; if your dog is a sprawler, a flat dog bed with a head bolster may be the way to go. You can always use the starter bed for another room or in your dog’s crate, so it won’t go to waste.
A Dog Crate
Dog crates are indispensable training tools for your dog and can help them feel safe and secure in the home. They should be large enough for your dog to stand and move around comfortably in. If you get a wire dog crate, make sure the bars are spaced appropriately so that your dog’s head or paws won’t get stuck. If you opt for a plastic dog crate, make sure it’s easy to disassemble and clean.
Food and Water Dishes
Your basic dog food and water bowl requirements should be: 1. easy to clean, 2. heavy enough not to tip over and 3. made of a material that won’t leach toxins (like stainless steel). If you have a dog that can tip over bowls no matter how heavy they are, try dishes that can be bolted to the side of the crate.
Toys and Enrichment Items
These dog supplies can get expensive quickly. Every dog has his own quirky toy preferences, and you’ll probably spend quite a few dollars before you find toys that are just right. It’s always a good idea to have standard canine enrichment equipment, such as appropriately-sized Kongs, tug toys or balls, on hand to keep your pup engaged and occupied. However, you can DIY a lot of dog enrichment activities, so try out a few things at home before spending the big bucks.
Medication and Supplements
If your dog needs prescription medication or supplements (like flea and tick preventives or joint support products), try to keep a few extra weeks’ supply on hand. If you order your prescription medications online, make sure your dog’s test results are up to date so that your vet can authorize prescription refills. Before giving your dog over-the-counter supplements, check with your vet to ensure there aren’t any known medication interactions or side effects.
A Dog Seatbelt or Car Restraint
Your dog should always be restrained while in the car. If you don’t have room to set up a travel crate, you can use a harness or carabiner that hooks into the seat belt or purchase a pet-specific dog seat belt.
Microchip and Pet Identification Tags
These items should accompany your dog home. Your veterinarian or adoption organization can take care of the microchipping, along with basic identification and rabies tags. Register the microchip and take pictures of the tags immediately and email the information to yourself so that you can access it quickly if needed.
Bonus Item: a “Go” Bag
A “go bag” is something that every pet owner should have stocked and ready to go in case of emergency, like a weather or fire evacuation. It can also double as a handy pet essentials travel bag.
By sticking to a basic shopping list and pet care budget, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary expenditures in the first few weeks after bringing a new pet home. Most dogs will need at least a month to settle in and feel comfortable enough to let their personalities and preferences develop. Even if you do end up with dog supplies that your dog ignores (we all have a bin full of those), you can donate them to your local shelter to help enrich the lives of other pets waiting for their forever homes.
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