What to buy your new dog: the essentials
What to buy your new dog: the essentials
Britons now spend £10 billion on dogs every year – excluding insurance premiums – according to our research. And over 1 in 5 people we asked admitted to spending up to £20 on outfits for their pets. But what does your new dog really need? Our expert panel of vets, trainers and bloggers offer some ideas…
Essential #1: A collar and tag
Tempted as you might be to unleash your inner fashion stylist on your pet pooch, there’s only one real must-have dog accessory.
“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, who runs canine luxury-travel blog Nova Rova with his labradoodle Barney, 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.”
And those cute dressing up outfits? Sadly, that might be a no-no.
“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 who feel the cold more – they definitely don't need clothes in addition to their own natural hair.”
As well as a collar and tag, the law says every dog needs to be microchipped by the time they’re eight weeks old. Read our guide to microchipping your pet.
Essential #2: Dog training classes
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 agrees: “Before you buy any fancy accessories, think about obedience classes, because they’re the thing that’s 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.”
Essential #3: A toy they can love
It might sound stingy, but according to our experts, when it comes to play things, 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.
Essential #4: Parasite prevention products
Pesky parasites can damage your dog’s health – so as a responsible pet owner, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to deal with them.
“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,” she says.
Plus, keeping your pet healthy can help you save a fortune on pet insurance.
Essential #5: Healthy food
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.”
Essential #6: pet insurance
It can be tempting to take the risk when it comes to pet insurance. A worrying 70% of dogs in the UK are not insured – with respondents claiming it’s just too expensive, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
But, based on Compare the Market data in August 2019, half of our customers could insure their dog for £137* per year.
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.
Today, the average pet insurance claim is over £750, according to the ABI. Make sure you compare dog insurance quotes first to get the right deal for you and your pooch.
*50% of people could achieve a quote of £136.80 per year for their dog insurance based on Compare the Market data in August 2019 (across all levels of cover).