What you need to buy if you've got a new dog

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So you’ve welcomed a new furry pal into your home? It’s a joyous time, but before you visit your local pet shop to stock up on teeny-tiny tartan bow ties (what else would a self-respecting pooch wear to a doggy dinner party?), you should read this.

The market for canine-related products – from food and toys to designer accessories – is huge. So big, in fact, that our research shows that Britons now spend £10 billion on dogs every year, excluding insurance premiums. Over one in five of people surveyed admit to spending up to £20 on outfits for their pets – they are pretty adorable, before you judge – which was the highest expenditure after food and grooming.**

Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, it's sometimes difficult to know which products and services you actually need, and which could be a waste of money? We asked a panel of experts, including vets, trainers and bloggers, and here’s what they said…

Learn to sit before you play

You and your new dog are probably eager to hit the park and show each other off, right? But before you head out to play ball, our experts recommend that you and your NBF (New Best Friend) undertake some form of doggy training class. “It’s a good idea to invest in a puppy course, without a doubt,” explains Trevor, who runs London-based dog-walking, day care, boarding and canine-training company DogDaddies. Nicholas Kynaston, who runs canine luxury-travel blog Nova Rova with his labradoodle Barney, agrees: “Before you buy any fancy accessories, think about obedience classes, because they are the thing that is going to make your time with your dog brilliant. A well-trained dog will add so much to your life, whereas an unruly dog can be a nightmare.”

What you need to buy if you've got a new dog
keep accessories pet basic

Keep accessories basic

It can be really fun to unleash your inner fashion stylist on your pet pooch, but according to our experts, your dog probably isn’t enjoying the process as much as you are. “Many dogs don't actually like to be dressed up,” explains Emily Blackwell, a lecturer in canine behaviour and welfare at the University of Bristol. “And with the exception of dogs with very fine coats – such as greyhounds, which feel the cold more – they definitely don't need clothes in addition to their own natural hair.”

But while jazzy outfits may be out, there is one vital accessory every dog must have. “It’s a legal requirement for a dog to wear a collar and tag in public at all times,” explains Carlie Mesquitta of the charity Dogs Trust. “And the collar must display the name, address and postcode of the dog’s owner.”

When it comes to picking a collar, Nicholas Kynaston reminds us that your dog’s needs should come first. “Your dog doesn’t need a super-luxurious collar,” he tells us. “You might think it does, but your dog just wants something that’s comfortable.” And speaking of comfort, Nicholas adds, “With a lot of dogs, as soon as they get a sniff of the park, they’re pulling on the lead. If your dog does this, consider getting them a harness. That way, the lead is attached to their middle, so they won’t strain their neck.”

Fewer toys, more fun

It might sound stingy, but according to our experts, when it comes to playthings, less is more. “You don’t need to overload them with toys,” explains Trevor. “They need to get one favourite toy and they need to be happy with it.” And, just like people, there’s not one toy to please all. “Dogs have individual likes and dislikes,” explains Emily Blackwell. “Some prefer hard, chewable toys, while others like something soft to carry around.”

Even when you’ve worked out what kind of toys your dog goes bananas for, with so many brands on the market, it can be hard to know which to choose. And if you do decide to splurge only to find that your pooch has no interest in half of the toys you bought them, Nicholas Kynaston has the perfect solution. “Most dog charities will always be grateful for good-quality toys, even if they are second-hand,” he told us.

buying fewer dog toys is more fun
pet parasite prevention is a must

Parasite prevention is a must

Yes, we know you don’t want to think about it, but the experts insist that responsible dog-owners should think about parasite prevention. “Worms, fleas and ticks are all common problems in dogs, so it’s a good idea to have a strategy to control these,” explains David Willis, Managing Director of County Armagh-based natural-remedy company Natural Farm Health. “Many dog-owners prefer to use a natural product as they don’t want to give something to the dog that they wouldn’t use themselves. Your vet will be able to advise you best.

“You should always ensure your pet is registered with a vet,” explains Elizabeth Eichler. “Your vet is best-placed to provide the most appropriate and effective products, and can also ensure you dog is covered with appropriate vaccinations.” Fellow vet Katie Swords agrees: “Routine pet care can save owners a lot of heartache.”

Feed your dog healthy

You might think your dog will eat anything but there’s more to it than that. “Think carefully before choosing dog food,” Elizabeth Eichler advises. “It doesn't have to be the most expensive food on the market, but it's important that is contains good-quality ingredients to provide a healthy diet for your dog.” But how can you tell which dog foods are best? Katie Swords had this advice: “Make sure you choose a food with a high meat content. Read the ingredients – if it’s claiming to be chicken, then that should be one of the first ingredients listed. Also look at fat content and the number of additives. Some pet food can be the equivalent of feeding your pet a burger for every meal.”

And when it comes to treats, the same rules apply: “Too many treats can lead to weight gain, which in turn puts stress on a dog’s heart and joints,” explains Carlie Mesquitta. “Stick to a healthy, balanced diet, and only bring out the treats on special occasions to ensure your pooch doesn’t end up with a paunch.” Nicholas Kynaston thinks outside the supermarket-box when it comes to buying treats for Barney. “I buy Barney half-marrow bones from the butcher. They’re meant for human consumption, but they’re great for his dental health and he loves them,” he explains. “Another one of his favourite treats is dried pig’s ears. They look quite gross, but dogs love them.

But before you go bananas in the butchers, Trevor has a word of warning: “You have to be careful what kind of bones you give a dog. For instance, you must never give a dog chicken bones, as they splinter.”

ensure you keep your dog healthy

Plan for the future

It can be tempting to take the risk when it comes to pet insurance and our research shows a worrying 70%** of all pets owned in the UK are not insured, with respondents claiming it’s just too expensive. There is certainly a real range in how much you’ll spend on your insurance; with the cost of insuring pedigree dogs ranging from an eye-watering £778 per year for an Inuit, compared to a much more reasonable £84 for an Australian Kelpie, according to our research.*** But for other dogs, the pet insurance premiums start from £2.99 a month.**** Yes it’s an extra cost, but far less painful than shelling out for an unexpected pet bill if something were to happen to your furry friend. Just make sure you compare first to get the right deal for you and your pooch.

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****50% of customers could achieve a premium of up to £2.99 a year based on comparethemarket.com data in August 2017.