I’m frequently asked about the products I choose for my dogs. It seems to be that if a product can keep up with Penny it can keep up with nearly any pup! I heavily research all my purchases and I aim to find the best overall value. Sometimes that means purchasing cheap plush toys because the expensive “indestructible” ones don’t last. Sometimes that means biting the bullet for an pricey dog bed because it’s important my dogs have a comfortable and durable place to sleep.
After investigating and testing hundreds of products, there are a few I almost universally recommend. I decided to compile a master list here that I hope will be helpful for anyone looking to make a similar purchase. I don’t believe there is one best product in every category, but I hope this list provides a good place to start.
(Note: I am not directly affiliated with or sponsored by any of these brands. I purchased all products below at retail price. However, if you do purchase one of the products via an Amazon link I will receive a referral fee.)
Zuke’s Training Treats – My go to treat when training or reinforcing behavior. I use these as my standard “low value” treat but don’t let that term fool you. It just means that these are the first treats I reach for when I want to give a quick reward. They’re Perfectly sized and there are a number of flavors which helps keep the pups motivated and engaged.
Zuke’s Hip Action Dog Treats – A higher value treat I use to reward/reinforce more valuable behavior. My dogs know they’re working towards this larger goal which keeps them eager to work.
Stewart Freeze Dried Liver Treats – Believe it or not, Zero wasn’t overly food motivated during his first few weeks home. I spent a bunch of money looking for something, anything, to use as a high-value treat for teaching new behaviors. These freeze dried treats were hands down the winner. The big 21 oz. tub is an awesome deal, and perfect if you have multiple dogs like me. Both Zero and Penny are eager to work and learn when they know these treats are in my bag.
Big Barker Bed – I “saved” on dog beds by buying cheap foam beds that lost their shape and had to be replaced. Don’t make my mistake! Bite the bullet, and buy a high-quality bed the first time. It burns a hole in your wallet but it will save you money in the long term. Plus, I sleep better knowing my dogs sleep on a supportive, comfortable bed. I have two Big Barkers and they both have proved a durable, worthy investment.
Kyjen Slow Feed Bowl – Sometimes the best things in life are (almost) free! These bowls cost $10 but they’re priceless in my book. They significantly slow down speed eaters and they’re a great way to make mealtime an engaging, fun and safe experience.
Poop Bags! – You need ’em, they got ’em. Might as well buy in bulk.
Dry Dog Shampoo – In between baths, I like to use a mild dry-shampoo for a quick wipe-down.
Kong Zoom Groom – A cheap and awesome curry-comb style brush, excellent for dogs with short coats.
Furminator – The Zoom Groom is great, but for quickly raking loose hair, the furminator is the best. Make sure to purchase one for the appropriate length of your pup’s coat.
Kong Wobbler – I could go on about all of Kong’s great products, but if I had to pick just one to buy, it’s the wobbler. Even after years of hard use, this treat/kibble dispenser remains a durable and favorite stalwart. (One word of warning – only use on carpet to maintain your sanity – it’s LOUD on hardwood)
4Knines Seat Cover – Another place where I bought twice instead of buying nice. Protect your seats and your pup with this durable cover.
Squishy Face Flirt Pole – If you are DIY handy, there are a lot of guides to building your own flirt pole for cheap. But I found the squishy face on sale and it has given us years of awesome use. Penny tested, Will approved!
Eko taught me the regal, loyal, and steady wisdom of a king. In my grief, Penny teaches me the mischievous, mirthful and irrepressible wisdom of a jester. — I stand over an abyss, precariously balanced on a wavering bridge. Only a fool would suggest the best way for a man with unsteady feet to survive an unstable bridge is to dance across it. But Penny does exactly that. — So I lift my eyes up from the darkness and instead look at my foolishly wise hound. We twirl and spin and revel in a chaotic choreography. And for a time there is no darkness and there is no bridge. Just a boy and his dog, dancing in the park. — Both on leash and in life, Penny pulls me forward. — #rhodesianridgeback #projectrr #ridgebacksofinstagram #hound #dogs #dog #dogstagram #dogsofinstagram #excellent_dogs #video #chicago
The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs – My favorite coffee table book.
Virbac Epi-Soothe Shampoo/Virbac Epi-Soothe Conditioner – There’s no universal “best” shampoo/conditioner, but after a lot of trial and error, I’ve found Virbac’s products are worth the premium price. In my experience, a little goes a long way to keep coats looking, feeling and smelling better for a significantly longer time.
Virbac Toothpaste – My dogs will literally wrestle each other for the opportunity to be the first one to get their teeth brushed with this stuff.
Zymox Pet Ear Treatment – It’s expensive, but a little goes a long way towards preventing/remedying ear infections. I still use the first bottle I ever bought and this product has literally saved me hundreds of dollars overs the years. Eko used to get terrible ear infections from his treasure hunting (see below) at the beach and we’d be back and forth to the vet for treatment. After trying countless ear products, this Zymox Otic was far and away the best way to maintain ear health/cleanliness.
Oster Pet Nail Grinder – I strongly advise grinding your dog’s nails rather than using a traditional clipper. It takes practice to teach your dog, but it makes grooming safer and easier in the long run. If you own a corded Dremel tool already, you can use that. I recommend avoiding any of the cordless grinding tools. What you gain in convenience you lose in power/consistency. The battery powered tools take much longer to use and aren’t worth it in my opinion. I used the Oster grinder and it’s performed like a champ for over five years.
Mammoth Rope Chew – Most rope toys are flimsy. Not this one. Has withstood a ton of abuse with minimal fraying.
Grizzly Salmon Oil – Does your pup have itchy/dry skin? Adding salmon oil helped heal Eko’s coat and skin during a particularly harsh winter. It’s also a drool-inducer – Penny goes crazy for the flavor.
Rogz Nylon Leash – Tough to go wrong in the nylon-leash department, but I’ve always liked Rogz. Good color selection, solid quality, fair price and I like that the reflective thread keeps you visible at night
Leather Leash/Collar – I like nylon leashes for running/traveling because of how light they are. But for day-to-day walks and for training in general, I prefer the heft of a leather leash. It takes some time to break in, but the weight and feel of the leather helps give you and your pup a much stronger awareness of where each other are. Plus, leather is easy to clean and should last forever. The place I bought my leashes no longer sells them, but I really like Saddleback’s stuff too.
Iron Doggy SideKick running leash – If you run with your pup frequently, buying a dedicated hands-free running leash is well worth the investment. If you’re like me and want to keep your pups close by your side, opt for the shorter sidekick version of the Iron Doggy leash. If you spend most of your time out on the trails then the longer “Runner’s choice” might be a better fit. Both are top notch.
Antlers – For a multitude of reasons I much prefer to give my dogs antlers over bones and other hard chews. I’ve found the freshest, best-priced antlers on ebay. There are tons of listings, just pick your desired size and toughness and voila, you will get your pup’s new favorite treat. No smell, no mess, just a healthy, teeth cleaning treat! (Of course, if you have a power chewer you need to be cautious. I recommend starting with a softer antler just to be safe.)
Simplehuman Storage Can – This storage can had a swift rise from “Why would I ever pay that much money for this?” to “Why didn’t I buy this sooner?” I live in an apartment so space is at a premium. There’s no hidden closet or cabinet for me to store dog food. This airtight can not only keeps food fresh and locked tight, it also looks nice in my kitchen. It’s repelled years of Rhodesian Ridgeback break-in attempts and still performs perfectly.
Chilly Dogs Great White North Coat – A great winter-coat is a must for many dogs. And when it comes to winter, I trust the Canadians. Chilly Dogs coats are awesome performance quality gear that looks and performs incredibly. We’ve put our coats through some of the harshest conditions and they have come out unscathed. A very worthy investment, just make sure to measure and size your pup properly.
Midwest Life Stages Crate – A time tested and dependable staple for every puppy I’ve had. The included divider lets the crate grow as your puppy does. For a Ridgeback, I recommend going with the largest size (48 inch). You can rest easy knowing your dog – and furniture – are safe and secure when you leave the house. As for any bedding you leave with your puppy? Well, no guarantees there…
Did I forget anything? Am I missing any “must have” products? Let me know!