Over the last eight years, I’ve raised and trained nine dogs. That includes my own dogs, search and rescue dogs, diabetic alert dogs, a cadaver dog and dogs that ended up in pet homes. As a result, my house is pretty well set up for puppies. Some things I own are fun–like prissy dog beds for Quincy. Some didn’t last very long–like the stuffed squirrel from PetCo. Some things I’d never buy again–like ceramic dog bowls. But the three essential items I can’t live without?
- Plastic Food Bins
- Plastic Dog Crates
- A Secure Pen
With my very first Lab puppy my biggest mistake was food storage. I left a forty-pound bag of puppy chow in the garage on the floor. Leo, still so small I could carry him around the house, snuck into the garage, tore up the bag and ate so much food he appeared to have swallowed a basketball. After it happened the first time, I thought I was careful. I moved the food up higher. I tried to remember to keep the garage door closed at all times. Problem was, Leo was on high alert for food, so I only had to forget once, and he’d stuff himself again. Besides keeping the food safe from a little piggy, the bins also keep the food fresh and safe from rodents.
Currently, I have two of these bins. As soon as I buy a bag of dog food I cut it open, fill one bin and throw out the bag. I alternate between two bins because each bin needs to be cleaned with mild soap and water and left to dry between bags of food. The oil in dog food spoils, and if you don’t clean out the plastic bin in between it will start to smell like rotten oil and flavor the dog food. (Not that my dogs are picky. They eat their food so fast I can’t imagine they even taste it.)
Another thing I learned with Leo, my first search dog, is the benefit of crate training. It helps with potty training, car trips, hotel visits or when you simply need a puppy break. Because I raise so many dogs, I have crates of various sizes and styles. I would suggest investing in two plastic crates, one for the house and one for the car. A crate should be big enough that your dog can stand up and turn around in it without banging into the top or the sides once he’s fully grown.
A good crate is an investment. For inside the house, I’d suggest the Aspenpet Crate. Your dog won’t be able to escape, you can put a comfy dog bed inside and it’s easy to move from room to room. For the car, I spent quite a bit more money on a Ruff Tough Crate–$300 all told. My current search dog Kinsey and I travel a lot, and I worry about being rear-ended. While nothing is perfect, this crate is stronger than the crate I use indoors and gives her another layer of protection in the car.
Finally, I have several large dog pens I put together over cement. The first pen I purchased was four feet tall and made out of chain link. It was a couple of hundred dollars, and worth the expense. I started using it outside, but after I had a couple of dogs escape by pushing out between the chain link, I moved it into my garage. Now, I love this pen for cold rainy days and less persistent dogs.
The second pen I have is pushed up against my house in the backyard under the patio. It’s made out of wrought iron and is six feet tall. I’ve never had a dog escape from it, and it’s tall enough that I don’t have to worry about a coyote or neighbor dog leaping inside. There’s enough room that I can easily fit a dog bed, a water dish and a couple of dogs that like each other.
So, those are my top three essential items for your new dog. I realize that when you add it up, it’s quite a bit of money. But, these are items I use on a daily basis to ensure the safety of my dogs. They’ve lasted for years and years. And for me the true test is this question: Would I buy these items again? The answer? Absolutely!