If you are like most dog people, you have a pile (or a box or basket) full of “dog stuff”. (Mine is actually labeled “dog stuff”) But it needs to be sorted and streamlined for the new year. How can you decide what should stay and what should go? Here is the list of items to throw out right now!
1. Retractable leash
It is hard enough for our dogs to learn our boundaries, but when the boundaries constantly change, it is impossible. When your dog pulls against a retractable leash, it releases and allows him leeway… sometimes. When you need to have control, you keep it tight. He can’t learn to anticipate what you want him to do and where you want him to walk when the limits are consistently inconsistent. Instead, have a long leash for those times when it doesn’t matter how far he goes and have a shorter one for those times when he needs to have stricter manners. Show him the leash as you hook him up so he has a warning of what is expected of him. It won’t take long for him to realize the times when you think manners matter more and the times when he is more free for fun.
2. Plastic bowls
Lightweight plastic bowls are harder for your dog to manage if she is a zealous eater (and since you have read my other articles and utilize mealtimes, she is a focused feeder). The nature of plastic makes it have a greasy feel that is harder to clean and can cause facial irritation and infection. The surface of plastic is more likely to have tiny scratches in it that can be a hiding place for bacteria. Opt for stainless steel or ceramic bowls and choose those that have some weight and stability.
3. Prong collars
I am not a believer in pain as a motivator. Sure, pain will elicit a change in behavior, but with it comes a learned fear response. Behavior can be modified, but fear memories are stored in a different part of the brain and can never be truly “un-learned”. Teamwork and reward work much better for dogs and make you feel better too. Giving rewards is fun!
4. Dull nail trimmers
There are tools specifically designed to make nail trimming easier. There probably is a pair in your box, but if the blades on the tools become dull or blunt, they cannot trim. Dull trimmer will crush and tear the nails, teaching your dog that nail trims are uncomfortable. Again, fear cannot be undone, so it is best to never have fear in the first place. Make sure that your trimmers are not teaching your dog the wrong message because nail trims are an important part of his care.
5. Broken or chewed up toys
Toys that are in disrepair are a hazard to your dog. She can swallow pieces and choke on them or they can become a foreign body that blocks her intestines. These situations are emergencies, so if you can sort through the toys and throw out any that are not in great shape, you are heading off some really bad consequences.
6. Smelly collar/outgrown collars
Do you have every collar that your dog had as he grew? It is time to let them go. Worn collars are a source of odor and contamination and if you get a new puppy, you will get his own new collar anyway. Throw there out or wash them and donate to a local animal rescue.
7. Expired medications
Go through the stash of medications and products that you have used for your dog over her life. Check the expiration dates. I know it is hard to let go of that ear medication for the fear that you might need it again sometime and it would save you a trip to the vet, but you should know that some medications become outright toxic over time. Others just lose their potency (which allows the propagation of infections that are resistant and puts everyone at risk). Save your dog from the risk of using old medications and see your vet!
Once you have removed all the discarded items, you will have room to shop for new things for you and your dog to enjoy!