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“Must haves” for dog owners – Karen Phillips

As a passionate dog owner, agility competitor and dog trainer I often get asked what things are a “must have” for dog owners.  This got me thinking about some specific things that I just couldn’t do without when it comes to everyday living with my own dogs.

Top of my list would have to be finding out what my dogs love and then making sure I have lots of it that can be easily accessed at any time!  This would predominately be in the form of food or toys.  I have a habit of always wearing pants with pockets around at home for this very reason.  That means I can always have a “goodie” on standby to reward them should they do something that is good like not jumping up or charging through the back door without sitting first.  If putting dog treats in your pocket doesn’t appeal to you, there are many styles of treat bags available that clip around your waist and which can be easily worn around the house without getting in the way.

Unfortunately I have to work and don’t get to play with my dogs all day, as much as I’d love to!  This means leaving them at home for a large part of the day by themselves.  To assist with preventing separation anxiety or stress when I leave, I’ve invested in a range of treat filled chew toys.  Before leaving for the day I fill them full of really tasty treats and each dog gets one.  This ensures that I have a household full of dogs who, rather than get stressed, can’t wait till I’m out the door so they can get their treat toy.  I also supplement the chew toys with treat balls that have biscuits in them.  These can be rolled around the garden while the dog tries to extract the treats also providing some mental stimulation.

I absolutely could not get by without dog crates.  As soon as I bring a puppy home I introduce them to spending time in one.  Crates and puppy pens provide an area for my puppy to be anytime that I am unable to supervise.  Supervision and management is the only way to have accident-free housetraining and prevent chewing of household items or furniture.  Combined with food-filled treat toys, they provide a safe and contained environment for as long as necessary when going through the training process.  Even when my puppies are fully toilet and housetrained, I still leave crates around my house with their doors open and there is always a dog curled up, fast asleep.  Read our Crate Training fact sheet.

The correct choice of collar and lead is very important.  The days of using metal choke chains are fortunately long gone for most people.  A far preferable choice is the amazing range of harnesses and head halters that are now available.  I use a standard harness for my papillon and normal flat collars for my border collies unless they can’t walk nicely.  One of my border collie which likes to pull gets to wear a head halter.  Head halters are based on the principle that, if you have control of your dog’s head, it cannot pull in the same way that a horse halter works.  There are also a range of harnesses designed to tighten when a dog pulls which makes doing so uncomfortable and less likely to occur.  These work on many dogs but I have to say that I can’t live without a head halter for Sonic who insists on treating every walk with my other dogs as a race that he has to win!

Western Australia is one of the few states that still has no legislation around having unrestrained dogs in cars.  To ensure a dog’s safety when travelling, having it secure and safe is something that should always be done.  Just like a small child, they can easily be killed if they are involved in a car accident and they aren’t secured, not to mention that they become a weighty and very dangerous projectile that could injure other passengers. There are plenty of options available these days from car harnesses and seatbelts to crates that can be secured to the car.  While my border collies ride in the back of my car in secure cages, my papillon wears a harness with a strap that clips into the seat belt up front with me.  Not only will this prevent her from going through the windscreen should I have to stop suddenly it also stops her from moving around and being a distraction.  Just like I would never consider having unrestrained children travelling in my car I would never consider transporting my dogs unless they are safely strapped in.


Karen and RiotKaren Phillips is the owner and trainer of Riot, the beautiful Border Collie that is the Better Pets and Gardens mascot.  Karen has had immense experience and success with her dogs, all border collies except for Cassie, the very fast papillon, and is currently involved as a trainer with the Agility Club of WA.  Karen is also a regular expert on our Facebook page every Monday night.

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