Essential gear for dogs


Dogs are flexible creatures. Most of what humans think dogs need — paw boots, mechanical toys, rhinestone collars, Halloween costumes — is all in the human mind.

Some essential gear for dogs make living better and safer for both dog and human. Here’s my short list:

1. A good leather leash.

A leash is good basic control for a dog and human. I’ve known dogs that walk around freely and respond obediently to voice commands. I’ve never owned one. So many people who thing they control their dogs, can’t get them to pass a fire hydrant on voice command alone.

Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, says a leash can be as simple as a rope. His point is that the equipment isn’t critical — the results are.

I’m fond of leather leashes. They are soft in the hand, strong, wear well over time and have a give to them that nylon web leashes don’t have.

I’m lucky, however, Joey doesn’t try to pull me down the sidewalk like a sled. I can hold loose loops of leash in my open palm and walk with him. He may pull some of the slack out of my hand, but he doesn’t get away from me.

We sometimes use a retractable leash — mostly for training or days when I’m lazy. But it’s easy to let a dog get so far ahead of its human companion that reeling the dog back in to avoid another dog, a cat, a person, a bike, traffic, etc., is difficult or impossible.

2. A strong carabiner.

These are SO useful. I can hitch Joey to a fence or a pole when I need to leave him for a few minutes. I can even hitch him to my belt or the belt loops of my jeans for walking hands free.

3. Reflective safety gear for twilight or night walks.

Joey generally has three walks a day: 6:30 a.m., 5ish and 10 p.m. Once or twice a day these walks are when the light is low or fading. We also live in Los Angeles, where the Car is King and drivers get extra points for running down people and dogs.

I was delighted to discover Estelle’s reflective gear. I wear one of her bandoliers. Joey has a reflective piece for his harness and what his friends call his “crossing guard” outfit. No batteries. But you can’t miss us in the dark.

4. Portable water bottle/dish.

A dog is always walking around in a fur coat. And panting if he’s hot, which means a lot of water loss. Plus a dog can’t tell you when he’s in distress. You can pour water from a bottle into your hands for a dog to drink on a hike. A lot of people — including Joey and I — have Cordura collapsible water bowls. Joey is cautious about sticking his nose into dark spaces. The water level has to be high for him to brave a taste. We’ve used a Gulpy, which is convenient, but doesn’t hold a lot of water. Our most recent acquisition is a folding Tazlab water bowl.

5. A cozy bed to rest up from all the excitement.

Dogs take more cat naps than cats do. They have a taste for comfort and cozy. There’s nothing better than a bed you can sink into and curl up in. It’s better than a den. Here’s Joey’s friend, Fred-D, in his boudoir.