8 things your new dog doesn’t need

Getting to know Brynn
Our former foster puppy, Trina.

Believe me, I’ve been there: You’re bringing a new dog or puppy home, and you want to go absolutely wild in PetsMart. It’s overwhelming; there’s so much STUFF out there these days for dogs. But here’s a secret tip: You don’t need even a third of the things that giant pet store chains sell.

Here are some things we learned that our dogs actually don’t need.

  1. An expensive dog bed. We threw away hundreds of dollars on dog beds, as our dogs and fosters taught us that dog beds are for shredding for fun or destroying with a variety of unpleasant bodily functions. We now just buy lots of old blankets, towels, and comforters from thrift stores to put in their crates. Recycle, reuse! If the blanket gets destroyed, no big loss. The dogs are comfortable and so is our wallet.
  2. Puppy pee pads. Unless you want your puppy to think peeing/pooping inside is fine, don’t try to house-train with these.
  3. Canned food. Unless you have a toothless dog or one with some serious nutritional issues, canned food is really expensive and generally unnecessary.
  4. A choke collar or a prong collar. Please don’t use these on your dog’s neck. They’re not useful training tools and often just teach a dog to have aggressive reactions. Use a front-clip harness instead.
  5. A head halter. Dogs despise these things, for one, and for another, dogs’ heads are very sensitive, and jerking on a head halter to keep them from pulling is risky and often counterproductive. Head halters make walks miserable for everyone, from my experience. Again, check out a good front-clipping harness.
  6. Rawhides. Dogs really like rawhides, but they’re not good for dogs on the whole and can quickly become choking hazards. They are also not fully digestible, but dogs don’t think of them that way. Benebones are a great digestible alternative.
  7. A Furminator. Just use a standard shedding rake. I dislike Furminators because they rip out the guard hairs of your dog’s coat. You can actually make your dog bald in patches if you go overboard with the Furminator. They’re very expensive and not worth it, in my opinion.
  8. A retractable (Flexi) leash. God, I hate retractable leashes. If you ever want me to start ranting on the street, ask me what I think about retractable leashes. You are not giving your dog more “freedom,” you just have no control over your dog whatsoever, you are not teaching them how to walk on a leash, and you will experience some serious leg burns at some point in your career of using these “leashes.” Just say no.
Look what I found
As Eden can attest, sometimes found wood is the best toy of all.

What would you add to the list? What’s a pet product you see that you don’t think is really necessary?

How I can walk two German shepherds by myself

I am not a very big or strong person (I have weighed about the same as some of our male foster dogs, for example), and so walking two dogs solo has always been a challenge for me — especially if the dogs don’t have impeccable leash manners.

Christmas 2013
Pyrrha in the Freedom Harness. (It’s not usually this loose-looking; I think we need to tighten the straps a bit for P.)

Pyrrha is good on the leash, but I wouldn’t say that’s because we trained her well; she’s never really pulled much, and she just wants to walk slowly and smell everything. However, if she’s scared of something (or about to have a reactive episode), she will lunge. Introduce: the Freedom No-Pull Harness, manufactured by 2 Hounds Design. Our trainer told us about this harness, and I am SO glad she did.

Sunday walk by the river
Freedom Harness from the back.

The harness has a front and back clip, with a slight martingale-esque/cinching action from the back. The straps under the dog’s front legs are made of velvet (yes), so there is both a cushion and a reduced likelihood of the straps rubbing or burning the skin. And the harness comes in a veritable rainbow of colors! (I wanted to buy Pyrrha the pink one, so that she’d look less scary to people. Guion balked at this, but I think it’s been helpful for her public image. We bought Eden a standard black one, however, to appease her dad.)

The harness is also very easy to put on the dog, which is a big bonus for us. One of my least favorite activities at the SPCA, when I volunteered there, was trying to put a traditional harness on a dog who was about to explode from excitement. Lots of scratches to the face. Not so with the Freedom Harness!

Out with the girls

As you can see from the following photos from our recent walk, I’m able to walk both of the girls by myself with little struggle. 

Out with the girls

Out with the girls

Out with the girls

Obviously, no product is a substitute for good training — and we’re working on that too. But this harness is a great place to start — there’s no yelling, pulling, or bribing involved! The dogs just figure it out.

Out with the girls

When I walk the girls solo, I clip the leashes to the front of the harnesses, because this offers me the most control. Eden is still getting used to it — when she tries to pull and feels the resistance, she starts to pick her feet up high and prance like a pony; it’s adorable and weird — but she’s figuring it out very quickly.

The Freedom No-Pull Harness is available on Amazon, as well as through other smaller retailers. We bought ours through our trainer at Canine Campus. The harness, along with the two-ended leash, will set you back about $35-$40, depending on the size of your dog, but I think it’s worth every penny!

What makes walking your dog(s) more bearable? 

Disclaimer: I was not provided with these harnesses for review, nor was I asked to write this! We bought these harnesses with our hard-earned cash. 🙂 I just love this product and wanted to spread the word.