7 Things All Dogs Need

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By Dr. Sophia Yin

You’re getting a dog and it’s time to go shopping, but what to get? How many toys, which leashes are right? Does he need a harness, a collar or a bed? You can spend hundreds of dollars on supplies, but will you get the ones you really need? Here’s my list of the seven things all dogs need for a behaviorally healthy life.

 Dog crate

Whether you think your dog is ultimately going to sleep on your bed or in a different room, or even outside in a dog house, it is nearly essential he learn to love his relaxation time in a comfy crate meant just for him. This place will become his personal pooch palace; a home away from home when you travel; and his safe, quiet spot for when he needs a break from visitors at your house.  Once you train him to love this comfy resting spot, it can become a key to helping with potty training, preventing household destruction, and car safety (if you don’t have a dog safety belt).

Download the 7 Things All Dogs Need poster! It’s part of Dr. Yin’s “More Resources” bundle.

Flat collar, front-attaching harness, head collar

For walking your dog you’ll want a flat collar, a front-attaching harness, or a head collar. The flat collar is convenient because dogs can wear it all the time. (For exceptions, read this article: Which Types of Collars and Harnesses are Safe for Your Dog?) A front-attaching harness gives more directional control, while the Gentle Leader head collar, Snootloop, or Halti head halter give the most overall control since the dog tends to go where you direct his attention. Be sure you take the time to train your dog to actually enjoy wearing the head halter and harness by pairing both with food at first (It’s similar to training a dog to stick their nose in a muzzle).

Hands-free leash

While most people are getting their arms pulled out of their sockets or are accidentally holding the leash in a way that gives their dogs the signal to pull, with your hands-free leash you’ll be half-way there to helping your dog learn to walk on loose leash. My favorite brand for both small and large dogs is the Buddy System because it’s lightweight and easy to adjust. For big, strong dogs you may want to order the Dog-Safe Hands-free leash sold by Blue Dog Training.

Kong or other food-dispensing toys

If you’re used to feeding your dog out of a food bowl, think again. Studies have shown time and time again, animals prefer to work for their food, even when identical free food can be easily obtained from a nearby dish. A portion of your dog’s meal should be fed in some type of food enrichment toy. This makes the meal last longer, turns mealtime into a game, and provides enrichment for your dog. These food toys can also be used to distract and engage your dog, which can come in handy when you want to train him to enjoy being in a crate or lying calmly when guests are over. 

Perfect Puppy Book in 7 Days for puppies and adult dogs

For a new dog, whether it’s a puppy or an adult, start training right away for the quickest bonding and the smoothest transition. This book provides a step-by-step program for training dogs to give you their attention and look to you for guidance.  It also gives you a plan for developing leadership and clear direction to your dog.

Bait bag

You’ll need a bag for your dog’s kibble and some treats. The Doggone Good® bags are my favorite. They come in two ample sizes, open and close easily for quick access, and keep the treats inside rather than spilling out if you run. Its sturdy construction will survive yeas of heavy use.


For most of your training, use your dog’s regular kibble (or daily allotment of food). But you’ll also need treats, at first, in more distracting situations. One of my favorite treats is Natural Balance® food roll because you can cut it into one-bite pieces for your dog and it’s soft and tasty for most of dogs.


In general, I avoid choke chains and pinch collars

Believe it or not, you don’t need to rely on making the dog feel pain or discomfort to train him to heel. Even when these products are used by experienced professionals, they can have detrimental effects (see the AVSAB position statement on punishment). Choke chains and pinch collars should not be used in dogs prone to glaucoma or breeds prone to collapsed trachea and other upper airway issues (i.e., brachycephalic breeds including Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston terriers, etc.).

Food dishes are out of fashion

Feeding out of the food bowl is now considered the lazy way to feed your pet. It’s a wasted opportunity for training and interacting with your dog or for playing a food-related puzzle. Toss out the bowl and use the food for training and other enrichment purposes instead. Both you and your dog will have more fun!

Download the 7 Things All Dogs Need poster!

Dr. Yin passed away in 2014 but her legacy lives on.
Updated 2021

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22 responses to “7 Things All Dogs Need

  1. Thanks
    My family is going to get a dog and we
    were wondering what to and this articulate really helped

    1. Some believe that you should always use feeding time as time to train or interact with your dog. I wish I had the chance to debate this with Dr Yin as I seriously disagree.

      1. I divide my food into 3 portions. 1 portion into the feeding bowl, 1 portion is for playing toss and fetch (I toss the kibble in the backyard, she fetches and eats it, one by one), the last portion is for training – she’s learning Sit and Down at the moment. All these take about 20 minutes. When I don’t have time, she just eats off the bowl! We have a lot of fun and good for bonding, as she is a rescue, and did not know that humans are good. Randy, why do you not agree? Thank you.

        1. I am not disagreeing with using feeding as training as I do it with my fosters. It’s the “never use a bowl, always use feeding as training time” that I have issues with.

    1. This all really depends on your dog(s). I have two very protective dogs above 65kg. There is no way to stop such a dog, from suddenly ‘going off’ against a danger, the dog senses.Any normal collar will break, if you are lucky. The dog still proceed his way..
      In case, it’s stable enough, not breaking, the dog will drag you. In both cases, the dog will do, whatever plans.
      Yes, choke chains help in emergencies, but don’t replace a decent training, neither, they should be used on dogs, which can be physically controlled by a human. For me, they are what they are – the emergency break to protect other humans or dogs.

      1. I realize this comment was made a year ago but just wanted to suggest using a Martingale collar vs. chokechain/pinch collars. They are a safer version of a choke collar, ie they tighten when your dog pulls but are constructed in a way that does not allow the collar to tighten and keep tightening; the collar can only tighten to a restricted amount, conveying the hint to the dog without risking injury to their throat and neck.

  2. I am doing what a dog needs for girl scouts program I am teaching them responsibility this is helpful

  3. Totally agree those choke and pinch collars are terrible. I would love to have more play time with my dog but I work long hours. But we do go for long walks when I’m home.. so when I do spend time with her it’s quality time. #iluvdawgz

  4. My dog needs to know I will always be there for her, I think. She abviously needs food and shelter, two basic things we all need after water. She knows all this, I can walk with her ( without a restraint) but she is is not allowed to, man made laws come in here.
    Trust and love I give her and she reciprocates. Yes teach them what is expected of them, we as humans ( we are still animals) are accepting of them, give that back to them, they want to live with us, just do not know the rules.
    Irene and Felicity ( my beautiful English springer) age 17 months

    1. I also use. However, my dogs are large, 65kg+. They are convenient and decorative. I only leash my dogs in public.
      No reason, to not use, but I suggest, use them wisely. In My purpose is, to regain control, if one of my dogs starts attacking(/defending) against people or children. Despite, they are well trained, ugly situations are so common, that I need this affect two or three a week. Otherwise, both, I could could walk on a sewing garn.
      My dogs are regularly in restaurants, bars, around or within kids, other humans, so I really need and use the SHUT OFF effect in any case of (potential) emergency.
      As for simply walking on a leash. it depends a lot on the size of your dogs. You can hold/retrain them with a stretched arm? You don’t need. Better tie a short leash around your ankle and keep walking, so the dog feels some pulling, so he will pay attention.

    2. The reply hits on some good points, but is a bit one sided with such little information on your dog/situation. I live in an area with a lot of dogs, and many patrons of show and competitive dogs. ALL of the reputable trainers (individual and group) are positive reinforcement based for behavior modifications. A choke chain should be reserved for the purposes Olad describes. In her case, it is a strict safety issue, and the dogs respond appropriately to the collar. It also sounds like the dogs behave if not provoked, and poorly behaved people/animals are the triggers; additionally the animals have plenty of non-restrained activity.

      The flip side: If not receptive to the correction, a dog of any size can be gravely injured. Especially small and extra large breeds. Small dogs are prone to collapsed wind pipes, and it doesn’t take much in some cases. Obviously, if an extra large breed dog continues without restraint, even as the collar digs in, they are at risk for injury. SO is the human!

      Look into the loose leash method, do NOT use retractable leash of any kind (it always has a slight tug/tension on the dog, and the changing length makes it hard for a dog to know how far they can go), if ever attaching the dog to yourself hands free, always use an approved and size appropriate system, consider an anti pull harness with the front clip, different dogs do best with different types based on measurements, and look into group classes or individual training if needed. Most bigger pet store chains offer group classes specifically on leash pulling; ask your vet for a recommendation on trainers as well. If you do big chain stores MEET the trainer first! Not all are created equal, especially in chain stores, however many GREAT and enthusiastic trainers can be found in any positive reinforcement based programs.

      Bottom line: Saftey for the dog, owner, and public are the most important. Large breeds that are protectors can easily be a danger to or create danger for themselves, when around less well behaved animals/humans. So, saftey wise the choke collar is only felt when imminent danger is present. If your animal hasn’t learned restraint to begin with, don’t start with the choke collar. Use as a last resort, only if safe for the animal.

  5. I am about to be a new dog owner as I will be adopting my tenant’s lab retriever. But first, I need to get my apartment “dog safe”. I am a widow and live alone, no pets or children. The dog is a very friendly animal to humans, other dogs and cats. He is presently living with 2 other dogs and a couple of cats. Since I am new to dogs, I need to know what to purchase for him. I know I need a crate, but what type? What type of food is best for a large dog? What about Treats? Toys? He is such a lovely animal and I always enjoyed visiting Ronny. I look forward to your help.

  6. Dog crate is very useful in places where the pets are not allowed to walk as the crate helps in those places very well and to make it decorative you can use of various accessories of dogs such as playing balls, dog bones to keep them out of frustration.

  7. I have a 8 year old chi/j. Russell rescue. What we know for sure, is that we are the third home he was placed with through this rescue. The owner before us abandoned him at a truck stop, and his microchip returned him to the rescue.
    Jack is very aggressive when out in public. While walking, he will try to attack passing cars, bicycles, and sometimes other animals. At home if someone comes to the door, he will try to bite if not restrained (has bitten once). We have been working on changing this behavior for two years without much change. He is more comfortable and relaxed now, but people he doesn’t know and loud noise continue to be an issue.
    Even though he’s a small dog, would a pinch collar be appropriate in public? He lunges so quickly, I would hope that it would deter that behavior. We have tried a muzzle, it scares him and he just shuts down.

    1. No. A pinch collar is likely to exacerbate the problem. I would start with the practices here in this DVD. We use these methods on “problem” rescues with great success.

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