10 must-have items for any dog


10 September 2014

10 must-have items

There's some things the discerning pet just can't live without!

1. ID

ID for your dog is essential, increasing the likelihood that you'll be reunited should he get lost. It's also a legal requirement that he has a disc or some other form of ID attached to his collar when in a public place, with your name and address (including the postcode) engraved or written on it. As collars and dogs sometimes become separated, it's a good idea to have some kind of additional and more permanent form of ID. 

Microchipping is popular - more than four million dogs and cats have been marked in this way since it was first introduced in 1989, and it continues to go from strength to strength with 8,000 being microchipped every week.

A small electronic device the size of a grain of rice is implanted just beneath the skin using a sterile syringe; each has a unique ID number registered to the animal. The details are registered on a national database and can be read using a special scanner - most vet practices, local authorities, and many animal welfare groups now use these, so if your dog gets lost and turns up as a stray you can quickly be contacted. Tattooing is another option: find out more at www.dog-register.co.uk or visit www.petlog.org.uk for information about microchips.

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10 must-have items 2. Collar

Sometimes a harness or headcollar might be better than a collar for walking your dog safely, but the law says he still has to wear one when out and about or risk being viewed as a stray. It's also the perfect place to put his ID, and the first place most people will look if he wanders off and is found by a stranger. 

Failure to have a collar with ID displayed on it while in a public place is a criminal offence so you could be breaking the law too, as well as reducing your chances of being reunited should he get lost. Fancy or plain, there's something to suit all tastes and pockets, but make sure it's going to be robust enough, particularly if it's the sole point of attachment for the lead. You should be able to slip two fingers between it and your dog's neck - check regularly that it's the right fit, especially if your dog is still growing (or is on a diet!).

3. Lead 

As there are lots of places where you'll need to keep your dog under close control, you'll also need a lead. 

A fixed-length one long enough for you to hold in the hand closest to your dog and pass across in front of you to the hand furthest from him is ideal for when you need him walking close by your side. As with collars there's plenty of choice - you can even buy matching sets - but make sure it's tough and sturdy enough for the size and weight of your dog. 

Just as importantly, teach him how to walk nicely on the lead so it's not a frustrating or uncomfortable battle for either of you.

You might also like to buy a long training lead for when teaching recalls. Extending leads are popular these days but although they have their uses, they can be frightening and even dangerous if not used with common sense and carefully managed.

4. Bed 

Although your dog might show a partiality for napping on the sofa or even your bed, he should have a bed of his own to snooze on. You can get all sorts, ranging from luxury bespoke four posters to igloos, sleeping bags, beanbags, memory foam mattresses, and hammocks, to rigid plastic or traditional woven willow baskets. Your dog is likely to be more interested in comfort than appearance though, so be prepared to sacrifice your personal taste and style in favour of his preferences, unless you want to have him taking up permanent residence on your furniture.

Different dogs like different things - some prefer a firmer base, others a softer or furry one, one with supportive sides or one which allows them to burrow into it. Avoid beds that encourage chewing or that could cause harm if fillings are ingested until your dog is past the destructive stage though!

Whatever you choose, make sure it's considerately sited, away from busy areas in your home and out of draughts, so he can enjoy a peaceful 40 winks. If he has access to several rooms in the house - for example the kitchen at night, and the sitting room with you in the evening, you might even like to treat him to a bed in each.

5. Bowl 

Don't share your dishes with your dog but buy him his own set. Choose food and water bowls made of steel or ceramic if your dog is likely to chew plastic ones, and which either have grippy feet or are heavy enough to stay still and not slide across the floor while he's eating. 

Long-legged breeds, or those who are becoming older and stiffer, might appreciate a bowl stand; you can also buy narrower and deeper bowls to help keep long ears from getting covered in grub, and dishes with knobbly bottoms to slow down greedy eaters.10 must-have items

If planning a long journey, a non-spill travel water bowl in the car will allow your dog to quench his thirst when he wants - the Road Refresher works well: fi nd out more at www.roadrefresher.com Carry water and a collapsible bowl out on walks too, so you can offer him a drink along the way.

6. Grooming and first aid kits 

No matter what their coat type all dogs will benefit from daily grooming. As well as keeping skin healthy and the coat tangle-free, it's the perfect opportunity to check them over thoroughly for any lumps, bumps, or injuries, and any signs of parasites such as fleas. Provided you are gentle, most dogs enjoy being groomed and receiving your undivided attention. 

As well as suitable grooming equipment, you should also have a first aid kit - a reasonably comprehensive one for home use and a more basic pocket kit you can take with you when out on walks. You can put together your own or buy a ready made one; make sure you know what to do in an emergency by either asking at your vet's if they run any courses for owners or visiting www.animalaiders.co.uk.

It's also a good idea to keep a first aid book handy at home for you to refer to if needed.

7. Toy box 

Although it doesn't need to be filled to overflowing, your dog should have an assortment of toys, some of which can be left out all the time with free access to them. Favourites should be kept out of sight and reach, only coming out on occasions when you're interacting with them together - this makes them special and highly desirable, and therefore more valuable and effective as training aids.

Keep the toys in a toy box - this might just be an old cardboard box or a more durable plastic tub - so they aren't in your way when your dog isn't playing with them. It can also make a good game teaching him the names of each toy and to fetch and bring you the one you ask for, or to put them away by taking them to and dropping them in the box. Rotate the toys you leave out in his toy box on a fortnightly or three-weekly basis as this will help keep them interesting.

Make sure that toys he has free access to are safe. Always supervise play with stuffed fabric toys or those made of soft latex which could be chewed apart and cause problems if swallowed. As well as chaseable, chewable, and tug-type toys, your pet might enjoy one of the ball or pyramid toys that can be filled with food and need to be rolled around in order to release a treat.

When you're around to keep an eye on him, the Nina Ottosson puzzle toys can also be great fun, requiring dexterity of paws and nose to move parts in the right order and direction to gain a concealed treat. View a selection of these at www.interactivedoggames.com - you can also enter your dog's name and the time he takes to solve each puzzle in the Hall of Fame.

8. Chewies 

As well as exercising teeth and gums and helping to keep teeth clean, chewing releases calming feel-good chemicals from the brain so can be a great stress buster. Most dogs enjoy gnawing on bones and rawhide chews, but always supervise if you want to give such treats as they can be dangerous - dogs can choke if large pieces are chewed off and swallowed. Kongs are ideal; they can keep your dog happily occupied for ages - especially if tightly packed with treats. Visit the website at www.kongcompany.com for recipes and stuffing tips.

9. Poo bags 

Whether you recycle old supermarket plastic carrier bags, buy scented nappy bags, or purpose-made biodegradable poo bags, always carry something with you to clear up your dog's mess. It might not be the most pleasant of chores, but it's all part and parcel of being a responsible owner; and apart from being an eyesore and a health hazard to other dogs as well as people, failing to pick up after your dog could result in a penalty of up to £1,000. Whoever is walking the dog is responsible for poop-scooping - whether they're the owner or not - and having nothing suitable with you to do the job isn't accepted as a valid excuse - neither is not having spotted him doing it. 

Don't leave filled bags by the side of the path, thrown into ditches or tied to tree branches, but pop them in the nearest bin. If there isn't one close by then carry them until you can dispose of them properly - there are many containers available to store poo in until you find a bin.

10 must-have items 10. A happy home 

Every dog should have one of these, but sadly it's not the case for all too many. Recent statistics reveal that about 107,000 stray and abandoned dogs are picked up during the year by local authorities, over 9,000 of whom are euthanised. Of those who find their way into rescue shelters, many are there through no fault of their own. 

If you're thinking of getting a dog, consider welcoming a second-hand one into your heart and home. If it isn't possible, there are many ways in which you can support a charity and help those dogs who are still waiting for their forever sofa. Visit www.adch.org.uk to find an animal shelter near you.