Six Essentials That Make Being a Dog Owner Easier

All the useful tricks and tools.

dog in dog bed
Photo: Rachel Cericola

At Wirecutter, we collectively look after a large menagerie of pets all across the country. And although a lot of what you need to appropriately care for your dogs we’ve covered in traditional Wirecutter fashion, some of the most useful tricks and tools we used come from unexpected places. These are some of our favorites that make being a dog owner just that little bit easier.

A metal carabiner

carabiner on belt
A carabiner can hold your poop bags and let you use your leash hands-free
Photos: Amy Roberts

3-1/8 in. Aluminum Assorted Colors Spring Snap ($6 at the time of publication)

As a newish dog owner, I spend a lot of time wondering if I have all the “right” things for raising my 18-pound rescue pup, Gus (short for Argus). But one of the most useful things I’ve bought isn’t dog-specific at all: the small metal carabiner (rated to 150 pounds) I’ve attached to his leash handle. Not only does it let me hang a poop bag holder, portable water bowl, or my keys during a quick walk, but when training Gus to behave on the leash, I clip it to my belt buckle to keep us both from getting tangled and to allow me to grab the leash with either hand to direct him. The same setup leaves me the use of both hands to bring in a package or groceries. The carabiner is also great for securing my pup to a chair, bench, or post at an outdoor cafe or if we need to take a break. And when the day is done, I clip the hook of the leash onto the carabiner to shorten the leash’s length by half before hanging it up in my entryway for tidy storage.

If you have a big dog that pulls hard, a small, cheap carabiner might not be able to take the strain. In that case, look for one rated for rock climbing, designed to take large amounts of sudden force.

—Amy Roberts, staff writer

BUY: 3-1/8 in. Aluminum Assorted Colors Spring Snap
$6, Amazon

A dog bed they won’t destroy (maybe)

dog on a mat
Photo: Shannon Palus

BalanceFrom GoYoga Exercise Yoga Mat ($18 at the time of publication)

We wanted to give our beagle a designated spot in the living room that she could associate with calm and treats to help her chill out when she’s being barky, but the plush bed I bought her lasted less than 36 hours, even with two surgical interventions. We also tried a folded blanket, but she kept dragging it around. The solution, at the suggestion of her trainer, is an old yoga mat cut to be a bit larger than her area for lying down. (If you don’t have a mat to sacrifice, an inexpensive one like the BalanceFrom GoYoga Exercise Yoga Mat will do.) Your mileage may vary—dogs are gonna chew what they’re gonna chew—but mine doesn’t seem to have a drive to maul or play with the rubber. The mat packs easily, so we can take her calm spot with her when we travel, and its former life as a workout accessory may even have imbued it with interesting smells.

—Shannon Palus, staff writer

BUY: BalanceFrom GoYoga Exercise Yoga Mat
$18, Amazon

Endless treats in a tiny container

dog eating from container
Photo: Shannon Palus

Evriholder Dressing to Go Salad Dressing Containers (set of three, $10 at the time of publication)

The first time I met my dog’s trainer, I was blown away by her deftness with peanut butter. After each rep of “touch,” she’d allow Ada to lick off a small taste of the stuff dispensed from a mini squeezable salad dressing container, the kind you’d bring to work with your lunch. I immediately ordered a pack of Evriholder Dressing to Go Salad Dressing Containers for myself. I take one with us whenever we’re leaving the house for more than an hour. It’s like having dozens of treats in your pocket, but not smelly or crumbly. For an extended treat when we’re hanging out on a blanket at the park or visiting a friend, I’ll squirt a larger glob into a Kong.


BUY: Evriholder Dressing to Go Salad Dressing Containers
$10, Amazon (set of three)

A better poop bag holder

poop bag holder
Photo: Daniela Gorny

ZippyPaws Dog Poop Bag Holder Leash Attachment ($7 at the time of publication)

For toting plastic poop bags on your walks, any plastic bag dispenser that you scored for free—or your pants’ pockets—will do well enough. But I’ve found that those plastic dispensers can be bulky and awkward, or I’ll inevitably forget to put a bag in my pocket before a walk—and the bags sometimes tear in my pockets, which is not fun to discover mid-cleanup. The ZippyPaws Dog Poop Bag Holder Leash Attachment has none of those issues. Every time I use it, I’m so glad I have it, yet I never think about it otherwise. Its Velcro straps keep it securely and discreetly attached to the leash, and bags stay safely zippered inside the durable fabric pouch. And because it lies flat and is soft-sided, it’s one less thing to jingle, jangle, and dangle on your walks.

—Daniela Gorny, associate managing editor

BUY: ZippyPaws Dog Poop Bag Holder Leash Attachment
$7, Amazon

Waterproofing an old dog’s bed

dog in dog bed
Photo: Rachel Cericola

Hospitology Sleep Defense System Mattress Encasement ($25 at the time of publication)

Urinary incontinence is very common in older dogs. We spend a lot of time refreshing blankets and pads for our 19-year-old mixed breed, but her two beds aren’t as easy to wash and dry. After years of trying to launder and reshape different beds, I purchased a fitted, waterproof sheet for each of her favorite hangouts. It zips the bed inside, so she can’t pull it off while getting comfy, and it’s easy to clean. For extra padding, we fold the excess material underneath the bed. We also cover the sheet with a more washable blanket, but she doesn’t seem to mind going without. It’s an inexpensive life- and laundry-saver.

—Rachel Cericola, staff writer

BUY: Hospitology Sleep Defense System Mattress Encasement
$25, Amazon

Wet-food spoons

wet food spoons
Photo: Justin Yost

PetBonus 3-Pack Pet Food Can Spoons (set of three, $13 at the time of publication)

Cans of wet pet food tend to be small, and getting every morsel out of the edges with a normal spoon can be tricky. Make your life easier and your pet happier by giving them all of the food in the can with spoons that are designed to fit inside even the smallest crevices of cans and reach all of the ones you can’t. And if you have trouble opening the cans’ lids, the spoon works really well to give you extra leverage to pop open the top. These spoons are cheap, easy to replace, and dishwasher safe.

—Justin Yost, senior software engineer

BUY: PetBonus 3-Pack Pet Food Can Spoons
$13, Amazon

Read the original article on 6 Cheap, Unexpected Dog Essentials We Love.