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Essential Dog Products for a Happy, Healthy Canine Companion

Updated on December 29, 2012

If you're thinking of adopting or purchasing a dog, you've probably thought about the basic dog supplies you'll need to buy. However, beyond a collar, leash, feeding bowls and toys, there are quite a few other dog products worth investing in if you want to have a happy and healthy canine companion.

Here are my recommendations for must-have dog products based on my many years as a dog guardian.

Dog Harness

Most dog owners know the importance of a good dog collar, but many overlook the benefits of a dog harness. Though having both may seem redundant, these two products are actually complimentary, working together to keep your dog safe and secure while outside the home.

Harnesses provide several benefits:

  • Attaching a leash to a harness instead of a collar makes it easier to control your dog's movements because you're pulling on the dog's chest instead of their neck. This is especially important for small and toy dogs with fragile necks like Chihuahuas, whose trachea's can be damaged by too much pulling on their collars;
  • A well-fitting harness allows you to lift small and medium sized dogs out of danger, whether from an aggressive dog or an oncoming vehicle (car or bike);
  • Vest-style harnesses are sometimes lined or padded, helping keep your dog warm in cold weather;
  • Some harnesses feature reflective materials designed to make your dog more visible to cars, other people and animals at night.

There are many styles of harnesses available, from over-the-head to step-in varieties, and they come in a wide assortment of materials and colors. When choosing a harness, make sure to bring your dog so that you can try out various options. Consider how easy it is to get the harness on and off your dog, how well the harness fits (it should be snug, but not uncomfortably tight), placement of the D-Ring (where you'll attach the leash) and other features such as washing instructions, durability of the material and of course, the color or print!

De-Shedding Tool

Most dogs shed, but you can minimize the amount of fur that ends up around your home with regular use of a de-shedding tool. De-shedding tools work by removing a dog's undercoat - the thicker variety of fur that is hidden beneath the dog's visible fur. In cold weather, it provides additional insulation to keep the dog warm. When spring rolls around, the undercoat becomes less important and falls out over time. De-shedding tools help you speed up that process and ensures more of the undercoat ends up in the trash instead of on your furniture.

Unless you live in a really cold environment, your dog's undercoat is probably not providing as much benefit as it likely did for earlier canines. In fact, undercoats may cause more harm than good to today's dogs. Because the undercoat fur is quite dense, it can be attractive to fleas and ticks. Additionally, it can trap bacteria or simply become itchy, causing your dog to develop skin conditions or hot spots. Therefore, most dogs will benefit from regular use of a de-shedding tool, weekly or daily depending on your dog's fur type.

My favorite de-shedding product is the Furminator, but there are many options on the market today. Different styles may work better for different dogs, depending on the dog's size, fur thickness and skin sensitivity. You may need to try a few different types before you find one that works for you and your dog.

Flea & Tick Prevention

No one likes fleas or ticks, and neither does your dog! Flea bites make your dog scratch or lick the affected area, actions which can cause both short and long term skin conditions. Once a flea takes up residence on your dog, it can lay thousands of eggs, creating a flea colony that will undoubtedly spread beyond your dog and into other areas of your home (including you and your family). Ticks are just as bad, frequently carrying dangerous diseases like Lyme's disease which bring their own set of health problems.

Many dog owners think they don't need to invest in flea and tick prevention. Some say they don't live in areas where fleas and ticks thrive, or that their dog doesn't spend enough time in woodsy areas. But in reality, fleas and ticks are everywhere. Your dog can acquire fleas from other dogs, at the vet, at the groomer, while traveling - literally anywhere. And though ticks are less easily acquired, most anti-flea products prevent against ticks anyway because the possible health implications of tick bites are so serious.

There are several types and brands of flea and tick prevention products available, most of which require a prescription from your veterinarian. I recommend speaking with your vet about the various options available to determine which product is best for your dog. It's also worth noting that some dogs respond better to different products, so if you notice fleas on your dog after beginning a flea prevention program, don't hesitate to try a different product to see if it produces better results.

Poop Bags

All dogs poop, it's just a fact of life. And unless your dog has access to a yard, your dog is going to be doing his or her business on the street. That's where poop bags come in.

Some people believe that since dog waste is a "natural" thing, it must be okay to leave it wherever the dog deposits it. They assume that dog waste is like fertilizer, helpful to the soil, but in reality, it's full of bacteria and can even contain worms. It's unsanitary for children who might be playing nearby, is a stinky nuisance for anyone who steps in it and contaminates local waterways when it makes its way into gutters.

Instead of using plastic bags to clean up after your dog, invest in high quality poop bags made specifically for handling dog waste. Unlike plastic bags which take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill, biodegradable dog poop bags have a minimal impact on the environment. They come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and scents, and many are available with matching dispensers or holders that can be attached to your dog's leash. One website,, even allows you to get poop bags delivered right to your door each month so you don't have to make an extra trip to the pet store when you run out!

Dog Bed

Dogs love a place to call their own, and a dog bed is the perfect solution. Though you might like having your dog sleep in your bed with you, dogs still need a refuge where they can retreat when stressed out, tired or scared.

There are so many dog beds on the market today, finding one isn't difficult. However, you'll have to decide what size and shape is best for your dog, what material is best and whether or not extra features like reversibility or a built-in cooling system are necessary. If your dog hasn't used a dog bed before, start with something inexpensive to get them used to the idea of sleeping in one - you can always upgrade later once you see how your dog utilizes the bed both at night and during the day.

A Happy, Healthy Dog

If you're going to have a dog in your family, you want to make sure it has a healthy and happy life - just like your other family members! I hope you've enjoyed my suggestions for often-overlooked products that all dog owners should invest in. Please let me know what other essential products you think dog owners should purchase in the comments!


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