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1. Food and Bowls
Of all the essential equipment and supplies that you will need, dog food comes first! My favorite dog food is Fromm’s Adult Gold Kibble. I have fed my two mixed-breed dogs this brand for two years and they are very healthy. Their coats are shiny, their eyes are bright, their weight is about right, and they do not have allergies or digestive problems with this dog food. I love that Fromm has food for all age levels and activity levels and it is approved by the AAFCO (Association of American Food Control Officials). I may need to switch them to the Fromm Senior dog food option soon as they are now 8 years old and have a tendency to gain weight. Of course, the weight gain is also tied to how much we walk, and how many treats they get during the day!
Fromm’s Brand has not had any dog food recalls that I am aware of. It is manufactured by a family-owned company in the Midwest that enforces strict quality control with production and storage. I tried a few other dog foods that did not agree as well with them and caused diarrhea and some itching. For more information about dog food and what to feed dogs please see my post about feeding your dog kibble.
My favorite bowls are simple but sturdy, stainless steel dog bowls from Amazon Basics. As tempting as it is to purchase decorative items with more bells and whistles, sometimes simple products provide the best essential equipment. These stainless steel bowls have rubberized strips on the bottom so they won’t slide. They are very easy to clean and keep free of bacteria. And, the best feature is that they are durable yet lightweight and unbreakable.
I find that plastic and ceramic dishes can break or crack, and they are harder to keep clean. Additionally, ceramic bowls are much heavier and can chip easily. You may need to add a mat underneath to protect the floor if your dog tends to be a little messy. I place my dog’s bowls on the tile floor around my raised fireplace and that works really well. Additionally, if your dogs are on the taller side or older, you may want to consider a raised platform. Vendors like Amazon and Chewy have some great versions of stands with holes in them to hold stainless steel bowls.
2. Dog Blankets
I found some really sweet, comfy, fleece dog blankets that both my dogs and I love! The ALLISANDRO 350 GSM-Super Soft and Premium Fuzzy Fleece Pet Dog Blanket from Amazon come in different sizes and are perfect to throw on the sofa or bed. Not only do they protect furniture they give your dog a nice warm and comfy place to lie down near you. They are also great in dog beds and can provide a warm cover for smaller dogs.
I really love that they are lightweight, yet warm and very easy to machine wash. These blankets are key essential equipment that I use over and over again. Since they are so durable, I have not had to replace them in two years even when nibbled on. I have leather furniture which I want to protect, so I use them a lot. As soon as I throw these blankets on the sofa at night, the dogs know that is their cue to jump up beside me. I also throw a blanket on top of them on really cold nights, but they move around so much that the blankets get left on the floor. So it always seems like a futile effort. But they love to lie on top and snuggle into them.
3. Poop Bags and Scoopers
If you are gonna have dogs, you are gonna have poop! Guaranteed! So you are going to need a lot of poop bags.
With so much plastic going into the garbage bins, I always opt for biodegradable poop bags. My favorites are Earth Rated Compostable Doggie Poop bags from Chewy. I also like the Doggie Do Good Pet Waste Bags from Amazon. These bags are vegetable-based products free of plastic. They come unscented or lavender-scented and also can be purchased with a dispenser. I find that they hold up well and are easy to store. The handy dispenser can be clipped to your treat bag or belt. The bags come with handles and are easy to open. They are fully certified as compostable as well. They are great for the backyard or walks to the park.
I also use a really handy poop scooper in my backyard. The Frisco Spring Action Foldable Poop Scooper from Chewy comes with a long handle and is easy to use. I also like the Upsky Pooper Scooper from Amazon which is the one I bought two years ago. They both work really well and I don’t have to bend way over to do clean-up. I can easily pick up both little or large piles and toss them into a lined 30-gallon stainless steel garbage can I keep in the backyard. Then I simply close up and toss the bag into my large trash container on pick-up day. My hands never touch the mess!
Essential Equipment for Outings and Traveling in the Car
1. Dog Leashes and Head Halters are Truly Essential Equipment–or you can’t go anywhere!
I always purchase nylon leashes, collars, and halters. I prefer nylon over leather and rope, as it is strong and very washable. It also dries quickly if we get caught in the rain. I buy both 4′ and 6′ long leashes. The shorter ones are great for training, and when I need more control, like at the park. The longer ones are really good for beach days and other places where we have more space to walk around. And as you can see, I like to color coordinate! I do this to identify each piece with the right dog since their sizes are different. I recently discovered the Blueberry Pet 5-foot nylon leashes at Chewy and also at Amazon and have found this to be the perfect length for my dogs. They are long enough that I don’t kick my dogs in the bum, but a bit shorter than the 6-foot leashes and less likely to get tangled up when I walk both dogs together
My dogs are very headstrong, so I needed to purchase head halters. My trainer recommended the Pet Safe Gentle Leader which you can find on Amazon, which I absolutely love! You can also compare prices at Chewy as they sometimes have good sales. Too bad my dogs like them a little less. It doesn’t hurt them at all, as it only applies gentle pressure to their nose. Dog noses are more sensitive than their tough necks.
But sometimes they find the halters annoying and try to pull the nose piece off. Attaching a leash to their collars does not work with my dogs. They will practically pull my arm off and choke in the process. I tried body halters, but both dogs seemed to feel really restricted, and Georgia would not even move! See my post Walking Your Dog–Thoughts from the Other End of the Leash for a cute story about our experience.
2. All Purpose Treat Bag
I tried a couple of different treat bags and found one that had an easy pull string opening and was lightweight, but it only carried treats. Since I needed to carry keys, poop bags, and sometimes a garage door opener, I need something else. A trainer recommended the Doggone Good Treat Pouch. This treat bag solved all of my problems! This larger pouch carries up to 3 cups of treats and is made out of durable nylon. It clips to my belt or pocket and the treat pouch has an easy magnetic opening. It has side and front pockets for poop bags and keys. I clip a can of citrus spray to one of the side pockets to ward off attacking dogs or other unfriendly creatures.
It is a little bigger than the smaller treat bags I used for a while, but I love that I can store everything in one pouch. It will even hold a couple of tennis or small rubber balls for throwing in the park. I find this treat bag to be a truly indispensable part of my essential equipment collection. Keeping treats with me reminds my dogs to stay close and not stray too far if they accidentally break away from me. Treats are also a great distraction if my dogs react to other dogs or cats on our walks. And of course, I never go anywhere without my poop bags!
3. Dog Guards for the Car
Dog Car Guards for the Cargo Area
My 2015 Kia Soul is like a small SUV on a passenger car wheel base. The cargo area is smaller than an SUV but big enough for two medium-sized dogs. So, I started out putting my dogs in the cargo area, but I needed a divider to keep them from jumping over the seats. After some research, I discovered the Travall Guard Compatible with KIA Soul which worked really well. The guard is very sturdy and does not rattle at all. It can be easily removed and there is no way the dogs can push through it or knock it over. It did take a little bit of effort to get it installed, but it stayed very secure and did the job. Travall also has guards for other cars and SUVs such as Honda. These guards are really well-made products.
The only downside to the cargo area is that the rear window does not open. It is stationary with the door. So, when I open the door, the dogs try to immediately jump out. To prevent that from happening, my trainer suggested that I hang their dog leashes outside the closed door about 4 inches. That way I can grab the leashes before I open the door. That actually works out pretty well. I have also trained them to “wait” until I give the release command. However, they sometimes bound out anyway, if they are overly excited. So, I have to be quick! I also try to park in an area away from the street and busy traffic
Car Seat Covers and Barriers for the Back Seat
I often let my dogs ride in the back seat as they seem happier being closer to me, and I worry less about getting rear-ended. The Bulldogology Hammock Car Seat Cover is great to keep them safely in the back seat. It protects the seat and keeps them from falling on the floor when I stop quickly. The cover is padded and waterproof. I sometimes put an extra cushion on top of it, but they really don’t need it.
I also had to buy a couple of K & H protectors for the side doors from Amazon to keep them from scratching up the finish. The K & H brand was much better than another brand I tried which kept falling off. The K & H model has tabs sewn into the top of the protector that is secured within the window crevices. They stay put and do not fall off!
To keep my dogs from jumping over the console into the front, I purchased a simple Kooltail Dog Barrier. It was not very expensive and it was easy to hang from the headrest posts on the front seats and secure to the bottom posts.
The only negative thing about letting them ride in the back seat is that they get a lot more dog hair all over the passenger part of the car and smear up the side windows. But they do seem a lot happier in the backseat, and I think they are safer there than in the cargo area. And, it is nice to have a couple of options. If I am transporting other people, it is nice to have the backseat available. See my post about Your Dog’s First Car Ride for more information about my experience.
4. Dog Back Packs for Long Walks and Hikes
During our first long hike together, my dogs seemed to get a little hot and thirsty. We were in a big park, but I could not find a drinking fountain anywhere. Since dogs do not perspire like humans, they can get overheated much easier. So, I decided to buy them each a small backpack, so they could carry their own water and snacks. I discovered the Outward Hound Lightweight Dog Backpacks, which fit them very well. The packs have a cool mesh top that goes over their backs connecting two saddle bags. It has straps in the front and middle to keep it secure from sliding around.
I was able to put a small plastic bottle of water in one saddlebag and a small pack of treats and a silicone collapsible water dish in the other saddlebag of each dog’s pack. These items with the pack weighed about 4.5 pounds, altogether. A dog can carry up to 25% of their weight on their back. So, this was well under the 7.5-pound maximum that my 30-pound dogs could carry.
At first, my dogs seemed a little awkward in their new gear, but they got used to it. The backpacks did not seem to chafe them or make them uncomfortable. The extra weight was also a good way to increase their workout and help them burn off some of their hyper energy during the hike. And, my dogs really enjoyed getting fresh water and treats halfway through our hike!