Puppy Purchasing 101
Bringing home a new dog? Give your pooch a proper welcome by having these canine essentials on hand.
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A dog collar is more than a fashion accessory; it's a way to keep your dog identified (see the note on tags below) and under control. Look for a collar with a buckle or snap closure. For a proper fit, measure your dog's neck and add 2 inches. Check the fit by placing two fingers between the collar and your dog's neck. If there's extra room, the collar is too big. If there's not enough room for two fingers, the collar is too small.
No matter how carefully you watch your dog, it might get lost, so make sure you attach an ID tag to the collar. The tag's purpose is twofold. Along with the collar, it signifies that this dog has an owner. And the ID tag helps your dog get identified quickly and easily by law enforcement, animal control agents, or strangers -- and reunited with you. The ID tag should include your dog's name and your address and phone number. If there is enough room on the tag, include your vet's address and phone number.
Make sure you also add these tags to your dog's collar: a rabies tag, a microchip ID tag, and a tag from the city in which your dog is registered. All these tags bear numbers that can be tracked to you, thereby increasing the chances of your lost pet returning home safely.
Learn more about dog tags.
Look for a 6-foot leash that is 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch wide for smaller dogs, and 3/4 inch to 1 inch wide for larger dogs. Choose one that you determine can stand up to your pet's strongest efforts to chase after a squirrel or other animals when out walking. That means checking the leash for durable material, strong seams, and sturdy hardware. You might want to keep a shorter leash on hand for when you anticipate walking your dog in a crowd (e.g. a festival or farmer's market) or near other dogs. The shorter length makes it easier to control your pet.
Planning to walk your dog at night? Find a leash made from a reflective material, or one that has battery-powered LED lights you can turn on and off as needed.
Food and Water Bowls
Choose bowls that won't tip over and are easy to clean. Use separate bowls for food and water, and wash bowls after each feeding. Note that food and water bowls on an elevated stand offer a more comfortable eating position, especially for large dogs.
Learn more about feeding your dog.
You will need a brush and comb, a flea comb, dog shampoo, nail clippers, and dental-care supplies. Shorthair breeds require a natural-bristle brush and a rubber currycomb or a hand mitt. Try a wide-tooth metal comb and a mat-splitter (to cut through tough tangles) for longhair dogs.
Learn more about grooming.
Carefully choose toys specifically designed for dogs. Toys should not splinter or be able to be torn apart or swallowed. If your dog can enclose the toy in its mouth, the toy is too small. If the toy includes a squeaker or honker, only let your dog play with it if you are present to keep it from swallowing bits of plastic.
Crates & Beds
Dogs sleep 12-18 hours a day, so they need a comfy spot to snooze. A crate or dog bed keeps your dog off the furniture, which in turn leads to a cleaner home. It also provides both of you with a better night's sleep.
A crate provides a warm, comforting den for your pooch when you cannot watch it or are away from your home. Be sure to choose a properly ventilated model that lets your dog stand up, turn around, and lie down easily.
Many small dogs like nesting beds (beds with high walls that they can sink in to). Large-breed dogs usually prefer to stretch out and lounge on a traditional rectangular bed. For dogs that like nesting or sleeping with their head cradled, try doughnut beds, which come in all sizes. For older, arthritic dogs, you might want to try an orthopedic bed to cushion the animal's bones and joints.
Check out the type of dog-bed fill and the care and cleaning instructions. Beds made with poly-fill are economical and can be fluffed and refilled multiple times. Beds made with combinations of poly-fill, foam, and springs offer better support but are more expensive. Review washing and drying instructions, too.