October is always the anniversary of our adopting two dogs to replace our original family dog, Buffy; he died in October 2013. We didn’t want our house to be dog free for too long, which is why we didn’t wait for October to be over before welcoming these new dogs.
Our original dog was four when we adopted him. The two dogs we adopted were puppies–four and five months old when we got them. Having never housetrained a dog or prepared a house for the arrival of two puppies, I was easily overwhelmed.
Thankfully, life got easier with two dogs. Why? Because I finally figured out the must haves for when you adopt a dog or more likely when you adopt a puppy. Or two puppies like we did. (What were we thinking?)
If you happen to have plans to adopt a puppy or you’ve just adopted a dog, you’ll want to take note of these 9 must haves when you adopt a dog. I believe every dog owner should have–or be prepared to buy–these items (or contract these services) when you adopt a dog or welcome a new dog into your home, even if it’s because you’re getting married and combining dogs into a single household.
This post contains affiliate links to some of the products I’m recommending.
When my daughters were little and first becoming mobile, we had baby gates all over the house. This kept my girls contained in childproof rooms and helped us keep tabs on their whereabouts. By the time the girls went to nursery school, the gates were gone. It’s too bad we hadn’t held onto them, because we really could have used them with the puppies. I turned to Facebook to ask friends for advice on gates to use, and the ones that were most recommended were these walk-through bronze gates from Amazon. They weren’t cheap, to be sure, but they had good reviews and, frankly, looked nice. Plus, they had a walk through option. They fit securely in doorways and were tall enough that our small puppies couldn’t scale them. We used the gates to keep the puppies out of carpeted rooms so as they were learning house training, their accidents occurred on smooth floors where clean up was easy. Once we were done with housetraining time, I sold those gates on Craigslist and was able to make back about half of what I’d spent on them.
2. Bitter Apple Spray
Once the dogs were allowed to enter rooms with rugs–especially those with area rugs–they took to chewing the corners of those rugs. Our first dog never chewed anything, except one of my husband’s sneakers. But seriously this dog never did any damage to our home furnishings. These puppies? They clearly didn’t know whose paw prints they were following in. Again, Facebook became my savior, this time for finding out how to get dogs to stop chewing on the corner of carpets. A friend suggested Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray. It doesn’t smell that bad but obviously it tasted gross to the puppies because the chewing on the carpets stopped immediately.
3. A Good Garbage Can
If you and your family aren’t very good about cleaning up after yourself, then you’ll quickly learn to change your messy ways once you adopt a dog. Whereas our first dog Buffy wasn’t interested in any garbage or trash left sitting in uncovered trashcans, he did love shoes and underwear. With our new puppies, nothing was safe–the trash, tissues, tampons, you name it. We ended up having to invest in all-new trashcans, with a cover you could only open by stepping on a lever, for the whole house. With bigger dogs you may need a trashcan with a closed top that locks. On forums I’ve seen people raving about the simplehuman Semi-Round Step Trash Can. It seems to be the ultimate pet-proof and dog-proof garbage can, in that it can outsmart even the smartest, strongest, most determined dog.
4. The Right Leash and Harness
I hope that if you’re adopting a new dog that you have the time and energy to walk your new dog. Dogs need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and multiple walks throughout the day can accomplish this. (They can also help you get in shape yourself.) I have found that the best leashes are those with a clasp that opens and closes on the same axis as the button you have to depress to open it. That is, there are some clasps on leashes that open at a 45-degree angle, and if your dog pulls hard enough, he can get out of the leash–learned this one the hard way when Buffy took off after a deer. When we decided to adopt two puppies, our must haves soon became two things–a leash that would allow me to easily walk two dogs, and a harness that would reduce pulling. To that end we got this European-style leather leash on Amazon.com, which allows me to “wear” the leashes and walk hands free if I’d like, and the PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness, which has reduced pulling to almost nothing on our walks.
I believe that you can nip a lot of inappropriate chewing in the bud if you stock your home with Nylabones. Granted, our house was overflowing with Nylabones when we welcomed our two puppies. What we didn’t realize was the puppies need to learn how to hold a Nylabone to chew them–probably why they went after the corners of our carpet. So during those early days it was common to see my husband and me each with a puppy, holding a Nylabone upright for the puppy to chew. By the way there are Nylabone bones for all sizes of dogs. Another great device for scratching that chewing itch are antlers, which you can buy at any dog, puppy or pet supply store.
6. Dog Medicine
There are a number of issues that can make a dog’s life miserable, and yours, too. These would be heartworm, fleas and ticks (especially if your dog gets Lyme disease). One of the best ways to prevent all of that is to invest in preventative doggie medicine, such as Heartguard for dogs against heartworm and K9 Advantix II for dogs against fleas and ticks. (There are similar preventative medicines for cats, too.) I won’t mislead you–these medicines are expensive, but compared to the cost (financially and emotionally) of dealing with a sick dog, they are well worth the money. Note: you can only get Heartguard with a vet’s prescription. Flea and tick medicines are available over the counter, if you will.
7. A Vet Whose Vision Matches Yours
Ask friends and family for vet recommendations, and chances are those recommendations will center on what the vet charges. While cost is definitely a factor to consider, it shouldn’t be the only factor steering your decision on how to choose a vet. However, where I would question a vet’s prices is if you ever get to the point we did with our original vet–he was always recommending diagnostic tests for every little thing that could have been wrong with our dog. Every vet visit felt like I was getting nickel and dimed. When we did end up switching to another vet, I knew I’d found the right vet in that his vision of dog care matched mine–conservative yet appropriate.
8. A Groomer (and Dog Sitter) You Trust
Just like humans dogs need regular grooming. You want to make sure their ears stay clear and clean to avoid ear infections–our dog Buffy was allergic to ragweed and always got ear infections in late summer/early fall–and you want to make sure that their nails are kept trimmed. Letting your dogs nails get too long could lead to a foot injury. Even if you walk your dog on pavement regularly, which helps to file them down, they still need to be trimmed on a regular basis. Same with brushing and bathing. In between grooming visits we use the FURminator to brush the dogs. It’s does an excellent job of removing the undercoat layer of fur on our dogs, which helps to cut down on shedding. Some groomers also dog sit. If that’s so, make sure you check references and ensure that your dogs will get lots of outside time–in a fenced-in yard. We learned the hard way the importance of only using a sitter with a fenced in yard. Last spring one of our puppies, Gabe (pictured above, right), escaped from the sitter’s house and was hit by a car and killed. Thankfully, the other dog, Sadie, stayed inside. We did adopt another rescue (Oscar shown with Sadie at the top of this story) soon after his death, but we still mourn Gabe (and regret this mistake we made with the dog sitter).
An aside for walking dogs–get yourself a good pair of walking shoes. And replace them often. A good rule of thumb is you need new sneakers once you’ve walked or run approximately 400 miles. In my life, for example, I walk my dogs three to four times a day, at a mile each outing. So we’re walking three to four miles a day, meaning a conservative estimate for replacing my sneakers (or tennis shoes, trainers or whatever you call your exercise footwear) would be every three months or so. That could get expensive so I switch up which shoes I wear–Birkenstocks in the summer, running sneakers in colder weather. Either way, once the bottoms of your shoes become smooth, you’ve worn out the tread and you need to replace them. If you find your favorite shoes on sale, I might suggest stocking up, knowing that you’ll be replacing them at least once a year.
For more on my take on frugal pet ownership, here is a post I wrote a few year’s ago. It includes some of the same advice I’ve offered in this post, plus a few other thoughts on saving money when you have pets.