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?

Pyrrha meets Roland

My friend Sarah called me on Monday night and said, “So… I just adopted a dog.” She was driving back from our local SPCA with this cute little dude in the back of her car:

Photo credit: Sarah Y.

Roland (or Victoire! She hasn’t fully decided on a name yet) is a 1-2 year-old spaniel/hound mix with the sweetest little disposition. He’s probably about 50 lbs. and had been dropped off by his former owner, who said she was sad to give him up but wouldn’t take him with her on her move. Sad for Roland, but happy for Sarah!

Last night, she brought Roland over to my house during small group, to meet friends and Pyrrha.

Their meeting went very well, I thought. Roland was a bit overwhelmed for the first few minutes, and Pyrrha was all up in his grill. It was strange to see her being the overly excited/gregarious one! But after some time, they acclimated to each other and tails started wagging and wrestling commenced.

Here are some terrible, fuzzy pictures of their encounter (dark in the house, plus I didn’t pull out my nicer camera):

Roland charms small group
Roland charming the ladies.
Fuzzy photo of Roland
Checking out the kitchen.
Pyrrha meets Roland
Girl, you are making me a little anxious here…

I was so impressed with how sweet and laid-back he was. There was a lot to take in–seven strange women in a room plus a pushy German shepherd–and he took it all in stride. He did pee on a rug, but you can’t blame him; dude’s only been out of the shelter for a day!

In short, it was a great introduction and I think Pyrrha has found herself a new playmate. I hope we’ll have Roland and Sarah over for a dog romp soon. I also think these two would be great hiking buddies. So, we’ll have to set that up in the future. Happy to welcome a new dog into the community, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Roland continues to grow and develop in Sarah’s care!

Meet Pyrrha!

With Pyrrha at Blue Mountain Brewery
Pyrrha and me at Blue Mountain Brewery, on our third day together.

Wow: We have a dog!

I kind of don’t believe it yet, but allow me to introduce you to Pyrrha, formerly known as Lyndi.

On Thursday night, we brought this sweet, super-beautiful, and groggy shepherd home from Southeast German Shepherd Rescue. She had just been spayed that morning, so she was (understandably) really out of it on Thursday and Friday. She handled all of the craziness–our moving, still unpacking, having our sweet in-laws staying with us, and the added pain and disorientation from her surgery–like a champ!

Happy Pyrrha
Happy Pyrrha.

A bit of back story: Pyrrha (*pronounced “peer-ah”) is 14 months old. She was brought into SGSR with about 14 other dogs after a backyard breeder in North Carolina closed his operation. Since then, she’s been fostered by the absolutely wonderful Cassie, who has been a joy to work with and a superb resource already.

Pyrrha is naturally shy, owing most likely to her under-socialization. Up until she was taken in by SGSR, it’s believed that she lived her whole life outside in a kennel. Cassie worked on house training and teaching her how to live indoors with humans. So far, that transition into home living has been very smooth. She loves her crate, which we keep in our bedroom, and sees it as her “safe place.” She goes in there very willingly and often opts to crawl in there herself. She hasn’t shown any signs of separation anxiety, which is great.


I’ve been very relieved to notice how well she’s met and handled all different kinds of people. She is a little timid at first, but always willingly greets people and seems naturally interested in them. She’s also met several babies and little children and handles them graciously. She’s not kissy like a retriever (e.g., sweet Bo), but I already knew to expect that with GSDs. Rather, she likes to politely greet you and then submit to your petting and attention. No jumping, no excessive displays of affection from Pyrrha, but politeness and calmness instead. She’s extremely mellow with people.

We’ve been trying to take her to as many places as possible over the weekend, to the best of our ability, without overwhelming her. She ate outdoors with us at Blue Mountain Brewery and was great. She met lots of new people and children and laid calmly under the table for the duration of our meal.

Pyrrha by the back stoop
Pyrrha by the back stoop.

Our one major issue with her right now is teaching her dog manners. The main consequence of her under-socialization is that she is terrified of other dogs and reacts with growling, snarling, and barking. It’s clear that she has no idea how to greet and interact with other dogs politely. (She was even terrified of a roly-poly lab puppy that we met at the brewery.) We arranged a “play date” with a super-chill Great Pyrenees mix yesterday that did not start out very well–but I’ll write more on that later (and have some photos to share, too).

All in all, we are very, very happy with Pyrrha and can’t wait to learn more about her. It’s been so encouraging to already see her confidence grow, her tail wag, and her tongue hang loose in a happy smile.

Thanks for ALL of your advice, wisdom, and encouragement over this past year! I need it now more than ever! More to come soon!

New dog shopping list

Lab in a built-in dog bed. Click for source.

My serious type-A self has, of course, already made a detailed shopping list and budget for our future dog. Here’s my preliminary list. What do think? What’s missing?


  • Martingale collar.
  • 6′ leash.
  • ID tag.
  • Clean-up bag dispenser for leash.


  • Crate.
  • Bed.
  • Nature’s Miracle carpet cleaner.
  • Old towels.


  • High-quality, grain-free kibble/whatever the dog was eating previously to ease the transition.
  • Stainless steel bowls in a raised feeder.
  • Healthy treats.
  • Furminator.
  • Nail clippers.
  • Shampoo.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.


  • Car harness or other form of restraint.


  • Standard Kong, or assorted chew toys.
  • Rope toy.
  • Tennis balls.

Now, to figure out how to budget for this!