A nearly-unavoidable expense of young adulthood is something that is by no means necessary, but still somehow feels not-optional: getting a dog. Really, any pet is a huge expense and responsibility — but dogs in particular require care that seems to be similar to that required of an actual human baby. (I’m not just being a weird dog-mom when I say that — I’ve asked so many people with both dogs and children who agree that their young puppies were just as needy as their infants. Granted, infants turn into toddlers and get way harder and pricier to care for as life goes on. Dogs age rapidly in the first year and then become lazy napping blobs that you hardly have to interact with if you don’t want to. But I digress.)
In addition to being super time consuming, dogs are hella expensive. Some are costly just to acquire — some are basically given away from shelters. But all require vet care, vaccines, food, and other various supplies that will quickly become more important than most of your “necessary” expenses, because without them, your dog will perish.
But with so many dog-products on the market, it is hard to sift through and figure out which ones you actually need.
When I got my dog, I got a new-puppy care package with a bunch of samples of suggested products I should buy for my dog. This included things like glucose drops, tons of treats that his tiny mouth wasn’t even capable of holding, vitamins, and various training sprays (to help him pee in certain spots, and to prevent him from chewing other things). I was really happy to receive all of these things and was excited to use them. However, to my surprise, I haven’t busted out a single one of these things since the day I brought Gaston home. Actually, that is a lie: I tried to use the pee-pee spray once, because I was told that only dogs could smell the scent and humans wouldn’t be able to — but I did smell it (am I a dog?) and it smelled horrendous.
I realized that a lot of products exist for dogs, and while some may be nice or helpful at times, you really don’t need the vast majority of them. Dogs are perfectly happy as long as the temperature is comfortable, their water dish is full, and they have one of your favorite shoes to gnaw on.
I decided to round up the puppy products that I actually found to be absolute necessities and create a little Puppy-Parent Starter Kit of stuff that you’ll seriously use. I left out things like food and treats, because those will vary so much depending on your dog’s age, size, and health needs. So other than food (which you vet will help you figure out), if you’re a new dog-parent — or are thinking about becoming one soon (!!!!) — this list of products is gold.
1. Harness/collar and leash.
I grouped these items together because you really at least need some sort of collar-and-leash situation. I recommend a harness instead of (or in addition to) a collar, because it is often more comfortable for the dog since it doesn’t tug on their tiny neck, and it is much safer and more difficult for a squirmy puppy to slip out of.
As for a leash, I recommend starting with a cheap-ish one to see what kind of dog you have — some dogs can get away with any old leash. I have a family dog named Oscar who is a big doofus loves to chew on his leash when he gets excited. He chewed through multiple leashes before my mom realized he needed a heavy-duty one that was impossible for him to break. This one does the trick if your dog is a wacko like mine was. Other than that, any old leash will do, as long as it is attached to a harness to keep your poopy safe and comfy on walks.
2. Food & water bowls.
You obviously need these, unless you plan on not feeding your dog or giving them water. (In which case you probably won’t be a dog-parent for very long, because dogs don’t tend to survive without food and water.)
I’ve heard talk that the metal bowls have more chemicals that are potentially dangerous to dogs, but I have no real science or evidence to back this up — however, if you want to be safe, opt for a cute ceramic set like these. If your dog is super energetic and knocks his bowl all over the place because he’s so damn excited for his lil’ supper, try a plastic one so he can’t smash it on your kitchen floor.
3. Travel food & water bowls.
You’re very likely to be taking your pup on a few adventures, whether it be to the vet, to your parents’ or friend’s house for a visit, or on a vacation with you. If this is the case, you probably want to get a spare set of portable, non-breakable, travel-friendly food and water bowls. These rubber ones are perfect for road trips to hiking trails, or wherever you might be taking your thirsty pup.
4. Really freaking absorbent paper towels.
Paper towels might be something you can get away with cheaping out on most of the time — I’ve never really been one to splurge on the thickest, most luxurious quilted paper towels, and have always found the thin-af generic brand ones to work just fine.
This, however, has not been the case since I became a dog-owner. I’d much rather spend 50 cents more on slightly-pricier paper towels that only require one piece to clean up one of Gaston’s sweet little pee-puddles than save that tiny amount of money buying an off-brand that requires six of them to soak up the mess. In general, I’ve found paper towels to be one of the most important puppy products to own — I suggest having a stash of super-absorbent ones for the gross messes you’ll want to make sure your fingers don’t touch, and, if you want, continuing to buy whatever other kind you choose for your everyday messes.
5. Lots of lil’ poopy bags.
This is especially important if you live in an apartment and need to bring your dog into a public area to do the deed. You can get these at any store that sells pet supplies, but these ones from Amazon are a way better deal. Also, they’re supposedly more environmentally friendly, which is always good, because I feel like I’m being a huge jerk to Mother Earth every time I use an entire plastic bag to scoop up a dog turd.
6. Cleaners that don’t make you sick.
You’ll be cleaning up 1000x per day, so if the strong chemical-y scent of Lysol makes you gag like me, you might want to look into some other, more natural cleaners that have a less-strong scent. My favorite is this grapefruit-scented cleaner by Method. It is pretty and pink, costs under $5, and smells light and fresh like fruit. It gets rid of dog-pee scent without covering it with a bunch of harshly-scented chemicals, which is all I could possibly want from any cleaner.
Even if you’re crate training your dog, it is going to go through a phase as a puppy where it a) pees on everything, and b) likes to chew/swallow literally anything it can find, whether it be your favorite pair of shoes, or some sort of electrical wiring that can kill him. For both your sanity and your pup’s safety, having a playpen to put him in when he needs “play time” but you’re not prepared to watch his every move is an excellent idea. (Pro-tip: this one comes in different heights, so choose accordingly depending on the size of your dog. If your dog is little af like mine, don’t accidentally order the tallest one like I did. I literally can’t reach inside to scoop him out of it.)
Drew and I put a waterproof mat inside of the dog’s playpen to make sure any accidents he may have don’t leak on to our floor and ruin the carpet if we don’t get to them immediately. Other than that tip, all you have to do is toss in your dog’s bed, a few toys, and a water dish and he’s set to play on his own! (Which means you get a break — yay! Puppies can be really time-consuming.)