In case you haven’t noticed, the pet industry is huge and there are lots of products out there vying for your dollars. Especially if you’re a first time dog owner, the question of what you really need is an overwhelming one.

Here’s a list of some essential and a less essential but nice to have products to make your dog parent life easier:


  • Collar - It’s recommended to get a flat buckle collar. You’ll want one made with something strong like webbed fiber or leather.
  • Dog tags - Local laws might dictate what must be on your dog’s tags but at a minimum you’ll want to display your name, your phone number, and your dog’s name.
  • Short leash (~6 feet long) - This will likely be your go-to leash for walks and other training activities. You shouldn’t use a retractable leash until your dog has already developed good leash manners. Also, you should consider getting a longer leash for other training activities, but that is filed below under “Nice to Have’s”
  • Crate - This is considered an essential because crates are an essential part of Harper’s training philosophy. You may choose to go without one, and many do, but in terms of designing an environment where your dog can’t fail, crates are your best tool.
  • Bedding - This doesn’t mean you have to run out and buy an expensive dog bed, and in fact, that may be a bad idea if your pup is young and still prone to chew things. Instead, you may consider using old towels or blankets, anything soft that your dog can curl up on at night or when he’s napping.
  • Food bowl - Like with bedding, you might want to start with something cheap and light and upgrade when your dog has better manners. You’ll find that a lot of people recommend using food and water bowl setups that are elevated to make it easier for the food to travel to your dog’s stomach and to minimize any strain on your dog’s neck. This is by no means a requirement though.
  • Water bowl - This is broken out from food bowl just to emphasize that your food bowl and your water bowl shouldn’t be the same bowl.
  • Food - You need dog food! Look to the Feeding article in this manual for advice on how to choose your dog’s food.
  • Treats - You might decide to just use your dog’s regular food for treats as well, but if you want to have some higher value rewards on hand (or as some people refer to it, if you want to tip with $20 bills and not just $1 bills) then you should look to purchase high-quality treats.
  • Toys for play - Your dog should have some toys that he can play with whenever.
  • Toys for chewing - Toys specifically designed for chewing are important to dental hygiene and can also be a useful activity for supplementing your dog’s daily exercise
  • Brush - Even dogs with easy to maintain coats need to be brushed once in a while (unless you’re okay with just random hair all over the place). Visit the article on grooming for guidance on what brush is best for your dog.
  • Poop bags - Okay, you might not need these, but for the vast majority of people who will be taking their dog’s out into public, be it on walks or to visit dog parks, you need to be a good dog owning citizen and pick-up after your pup.
  • First aid kit for dogs - I know, many people hardly if ever touch their first aid kits for humans, but the utility when you do need one is so high that it’s a relatively essential thing to own. This is true for your dog too.

Nice to Haves

  • Long leash (~50 feet long) - A long leash like this is great for practicing recall and playing other training games where your dog needs the freedom to make his own decisions, but not so much freedom that he can make a very wrong one.
  • X-Pen - This is short for “exercise pen.” These are similar to playpens for babies. They give your dog more space than a crate but still confine him to an area where he can’t get into trouble. Depending on the setup of your home or yard, for instance if you have an open floor plan apartment and can’t really shut doors to confine your dog to a safe space, you may find this to be a valuable tool.
  • Baby gates - Similar to the X-pen, baby gates may help you create boundaries for your dog that keep him out of areas in your home where he may do something you don’t want him to do.
  • Toys for reward - You should consider having some special toys that you only bring out when you really want to reward your dog. This will help with conditioning your dog not to rely solely on treats as a reward.
  • Food puzzles - There are a lot of toys out there that make your dog work to get a treat. Some popular ones include KONG® Toy, the Buster® Cube, the Tricky Treat™ Ball, the Tug-a-Jug™, the Twist ‘n Treat™, the Atomic Treat Ball™ and the TreatStik®
  • Doggy shampoo - As mentioned in the grooming article, you don’t have to wash your dog, but this is a ‘nice to have’ if you actually want to.
  • Doggy nail clippers - You may have no interest in cutting your dog’s nails yourself and that’s okay, but nail clippers are nice to have if you want to skip the trip to the groomer.
  • Doggy toothbrush and toothpaste - Lots of pet owners don’t brush their dog’s teeth, but it’s highly recommended. Bad breath isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a sign that something is wrong.
  • Seat belts for dogs - These not only keep your dog from jumping up into the front seat, but they help protect your dog in the event of an accident.
  • Backseat cover - Don’t be one of those people who’s dog tears up their car. Use a backseat cover to protect your car’s fabric.
  • Car barriers - Sometimes called car gates, these devices can make sure your pet doesn’t jump into the front seat, or if you have a hatchback style vehicle, like an SUV, these make sure your dog doesn’t try to jump into the backseat while you’re traveling.
  • Car ramp - Your car may be too high for your dog to easily jump into. You’ll want to consider getting a car ramp so that you don’t have to try to lift him in every time.