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Before I worked in human health I used to work at a veterinary hospital. Being an avid animal lover my whole life I thought I was well off when I started working there, but come to find out I had a lot to learn about my furry “first born”.
From a dog parent’s point of view (especially if you’re a new parent +/or have a puppy), you think you need everything that someone suggests or that is advertised. Please do not buy a whole bunch of stuff thinking it’s a must. A large portion of what you see on commercials is just different marketing tactics for a product line or another way for big companies to get you to spend your money on their items.
On the opposite end, there are definite things you need to do or have for you pet. And, something that always drove me crazy working at the vet hospital was when pet parents would come in with tons of frilly, silly (and sometimes very stupid) items they bought for their pet (while explaining to us that they only buy the best for their pet) but wouldn’t spend money on preventative care. Insert: bugged eyes, steam coming from my ears, and numerous thoughts of annoyance.
My “see-the-good-in-everyone” thought is, maybe they don’t know? Maybe they need help with deciding the important things to purchase up front rather than just the fun things. Owning a pet is like having a kid…. a furry, four-legged kid… that poops outside (for the most part).
Things You Do (And Don’t) Need For Your Dog
- DON’T: Egyptian cotton bed, ten thousand toys, cast iron and gold water and food bowl….
You get where I’m going with this. Yes, you can and should buy your dog a bed, some toys, and of course a food and water dish- something simple like this bed and water and food bowls. You want a bed that either has a removable outer lining for washing and is easy to put back on, or a bed that is itself machine washable.
But, there is no need to buy a Ralph Lauren bed or a steel bowl made from the finest metal that’s imported from Europe. (I have no idea if they really have that, but something tells me someone does) If you’ve jumped on the bandwagon of “Adopt, Don’t Shop” ( as you absolutely should!) That awesome rescue pup doesn’t give a poop about the bed you bought or where you imported their bowl from. They are happy to have a home with you.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you decided to purchase a puppy you’ll be spending a lot of time cleaning urine and feces off that beautifully expensive bed. Puppies need lots of training and they always have accidents. Start your training early!
- DO: Invest in a crate.
Having a crate has multiple positives to go with it. It serves as a “space” for your dog to find rest, it allows you to have a better handle on potty training, it gives you rest time, and a crate has been known to save a couch or two.
A good starter dog crate will have a removal base liner, foldable sides (metal ones will) to make it easier to transport, and double doors that latch closed. These particular crates usually come with dividers too so that you can have 2 smaller dogs side by side or make a larger crate smaller for puppies for training purposes (dogs have a natural instinct not to poop where they sleep unless no other choice is given. Even then, they may attempt to poop/urinate through the side of the crate to save themselves a place to lay) You’ll want to consider getting some good cleaning products since you’ll be dealing with feces and urine. My favorites are listed in this post about keeping your home germ free.
- DO: Buy quality dog food.
This is a tough point to talk about. As a new dog parent I can imagine the confusion on what you should and should not be buying. As a starting point, you should always bring your new dog to the vet for a check up. The vet will give you an assessment of what to watch out for and suggestions on anything and everything you have questions about. So, make sure you write your q’s down and bring your paper!
From my experience being in the room with pet parents this question always comes up. What should my dog be eating? Puppies should be started on a puppy diet, and from there you can grow with your pup to an adult food recommended by your vet. Rescues are typically on an inexpensive food that the shelter serves to all the dogs and it’s best to use your vet’s recommendation and purchase a better quality food.
When I say better quality I’m saying to you do not buy Kibbles n’ Bits, Beneful, Cesar, or other off store brand. This and another topic I’ll talk about later are ones that you need to stick to the good name brands. The best I’ve found from working at the vet are Science Diet, Iams, Purina, and Royal Canin. These brands produce the best foods with your dog in mind. Check their labels and you’ll find that the main ingredients are actually meat and not a by-product. Each of these brands also have multiple kinds of foods to fit your dog’s needs (aka sensitive stomach, grain free, wild protein like bison and salmon for pups with beef and chicken allergies). Again, check with you veterinarian about what they recommend for your pet. You may have to go through a series of foods if they have any allergies.
No matter what food you choose getting started at home is a process. When switching or starting a new food you want to stick to the “quarter” rule. The first day fill 1/4 of your dog’s bowl with the new food and the rest with their old food. Continue switching out the old food for the new food each day by “quarters” until the bowl is filled with the new food. This will significantly cut down on the possibility of your pup getting sick from an abrupt food change.
- DON’T: Store brand flea and tick medication
Please, please, please do not buy store flea and tick medication! I’m so glad that you want to protect your fur kid from those pesky bugs, but this is not the way to do it. Store brands that you find at a “reasonable” price come with severe consequences. Brands like Hartz, PetArmour, and Sentry etc are cheap for a reason. They cause tremors, seizures, and other debilitating side effects for your pet. Look at this video that was posted on Facebook years ago from using a Hartz flea product on a cat. I’ve personally seen (and unfortunately lost client’s pets) too many times while working at the vet due to awful medications. 🙁
More videos on this can be seen here.
So instead of using this yucky product, see your vet for better quality products that actually work. You can purchase a few of the older (yet still very effective depending on your environment and pet) products like Frontline Tritak or a Seresto collar online, but any oral flea & tick medications (like Nexgard, Bravecto, and Sentinel) must be purchased at a vet hospital- or have an approved prescription from your vet.
**Important Tip: Flea and tick medications aren’t the only thing you shouldn’t skimp out on. Make sure you get your dog started on a heart worm prevention! Ask you vet about what product they recommend and do not take it lightly. If your dog becomes infected, get ready for at least a year of frequent vet visits, painful injections for your dog, and at least 6 months of little to no activity for your dog. You can get more in depth details at the AHS website. It only takes 1 bite from a mosquito to infect your pet!
- DO: You need a GOOD vacuum
Ok, by a good vacuum I do not mean to buy the Dyson Ball vacuum that is like $400. I mean do your research in your price point for a pet friendly vacuum. You will be using it multiple times a week… and even then you won’t get all the hair. But, the vacuum I purchased is rated extremely well for pets and doesn’t break the bank. I have a Shark Navigator Professional in white and let me tell you, I love that bad boy. I’m going to cry the day it goes ka-putz on me.
It detaches from the base to get the stairs and corners, has a HEPA filter, and has the canister system for easy removal. Do make sure you check the cleaning roller on the actual vacuum bottom often. I find that even though the suction is awesome, dog hair tends to collect in the brush (my dog’s hair is a pain in the..) and to keep it rolling and working properly, a regular “cutting of the hair” is needed!
- DON’T: Pet insurance
There’s a debate on whether getting pet insurance is really worth it. I personally do not have it for Bear (my dog) but he was adopted as an older puppy from the local humane society and I’ve been extremely lucky with his health in the 7 years I’ve had him.
If you’ve got a puppy, it may be worth it. Pet insurance companies are similar to human ones where they may make you pay a premium on top of the normal monthly payment if your dog has pre-existing conditions. So unless you know the exact history of your dog (most owners don’t unless you bought him/her from a breeder with a pedigree) I wouldn’t recommend paying the monthly fees for the company to say, “We don’t cover those veterinary costs.” That’s money down the drain.
- DO: Leash + collar
Last but not least here’s two items I like to splurge on a little: a leash and collar! I can’t even scold a pet parent on this matter since I’m just as bad, but I think I buy a new collar and leash for Bear every 6 months. I’m not a crazy fanatic about buying high end, but I do purchase ones that will probably get ruined easily, just because I like them…or they’re seasonal… or for a holiday. Hehe! For example, I am a Star Wars fan (yes I know, awesome right?!) so I bought Bear a blue collar with a matching Star Wars leash! I couldn’t help it, plus Bear looks good in blue.
Another option to combine cuteness and durability, try the company called Lupine. This company is well known in the pet world and has a great reputation for making quality collars, leashes, and harnesses. If you make a purchase and it gets ruined (aka chewed up) there is a lifetime guarantee and your product will be replaced for free. That’s an awesome little perk, isn’t it?
(Old picture of my furry boy and I out boating!)
Having a pet is a wonderful thing, but like anything that’s amazing you have to put in some time to research and prep yourself and your home. Like I said, having a pet is literally like having a kid. So, prep like you’re about to pick out a kid that you want. Be a good pet parent and love them like your kid because, their love knows no boundaries and their loyalty is one of a kind!