Everything You Need to Be a Good Dog Parent

There are budget friendly, must-have dog products that help cut costs without cutting essential ingredients or everyday canine needs.

Everything You Need to Be a Good Dog Parent
Budget Friendly, Must-Have Products for Dog Owners - Everything You Need to Be a Good Dog Parent

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Whether you are a new dog owner or are greeted by multiple wagging tails every day, you want to give your fur babies the best life. Depending on lifestyle, budget, and your dog’s breed, this looks different for everybody.

Plus, there are so many questions! Can a dog really not eat grapes? Are bones and raw hides actually healthy for dogs? Should a dog have dry or fresh food? What vaccinations does your dog need? Are dog parks safe?

After navigating through vet recommendations and research, you’ll find there are many essential items needed to raise any dog.

Unfortunately, dog expenses add up pretty quickly. New dog parents can find it rather daunting and may even wonder what products are actually necessary.

As you know, we got a Labrador puppy this past Christmas. Now that there are two big dogs in our home, dog food and accessories are doubly expensive.

Samson and Scout are absolutely worth it, of course. But we are always conscientious where our money goes.

Thankfully, there are budget friendly, must-have dog products and strategies that help us cut costs each month without cutting out essential ingredients or skipping on everyday canine needs.

We might splurge just to have peace of mind sometimes. But we also DIY certain recipes, use rewards programs, and have found what organization methods, training tactics, and accessories work for raising our pups.

All ideas and budget friendly must-have products for dog owners below are approved by Samson and Scout!

Subscriptions and Rewards Programs

First off, I don’t consider subscription boxes convenient or budget friendly, at least not in the long run. With their initial discount codes, monthly themes, and variety packs, they definitely have appeal.

But $35 per month for a few toys and treats from a brand like BarkBox calculates to more than you’d likely spend at Amazon or the local pet store. There’s also a good chance you’ll end up with items your dog doesn’t like. What a waste!

As far as subscriptions for budget friendly dog products, I have two recommendations. I've also included a third that isn’t exactly budget friendly but potentially worthwhile for pups that need more interaction.

Petco and Vetco

I have to be straight with you, I haven’t had the best in-store experiences with my local Petco. I won’t blather over the details. Just know that my complaints are mostly limited to in-store staff attitudes and lack of customer service, which could just be my location.

Now that we have Scout, I continue to use Petco for these reasons.

  1. Petco’s Pals Rewards Program is free and every purchase in-store or through the app earns points. Since every dollar means a point, I typically earn about $15 in rewards every time I shop! These get put right back toward my next purchase.
  2. Vetco, Petco’s veterinary services, are located in-store. Their VitalCare program costs $20/month. This covers your pet for routine exam visits, $25 off vaccinations, 20% off grooming services, and 10% off nutrition purchases.
  3. If you’re an online shopper, you can schedule same-day delivery and also get 5% off on first-time repeat delivery orders.
  4. After your 7th bag of dog food from the same brand, your dog gets a free bag!
  5. Doggos are welcome to browse the aisles with you! Scout picked out a new toy and got a treat bag from the bins after his last exam.

If you are interested in dog training and behavioral programs, Petco also offers class packages. We haven’t taken advantage of those yet so I can’t tell you if they’re worthwhile or not, but I dare say the prices are fair compared to other offers I’ve seen.

Petals and Tails

Although this pet brand isn’t a subscription service, it is one you might be purchasing from often.

Dog parents with anxiety-ridden pups will benefit from Petals and Tails’ CBD peanut butter or treats.

They also have a great selection of all-natural hemp oil dog shampoos. I currently use the rose scent and my dogs smell amazing for a good week or so! Their coats are silky soft and they never struggle with itchy, dry skin, either.

For a discount on your Petals and Tails purchase, click here.

Doggy Daycare

The first few months of a puppy’s life are critical for behavior development. Dog specialists recommend your fur baby be exposed to a variety of scenarios, people, and other dogs in their first year.

Not only is socialization imperative for curbing potential aggression or anxiety in later years, it’s also a great way to burn off your puppy’s endless energy!

However, us working adults aren’t always home during weekdays. When we do get home, our dogs are so excited to play and spend time with us their behavior might be excessive. Additionally, some pups might become destructive if left alone for too long.

To ensure my puppies are friendly with other dogs and people and that they get their wiggles out during the day, I take them to Camp Bow Wow about once per week.

As I mentioned, this option isn’t exactly budget friendly. However, for those of us who want our dogs to be well-rounded socially and get play time in a structured environment (*cough* not a free-for-all, no-rules dog park), doggy daycare is invaluable.

There are other doggy daycare and boarding facilities, but I love the vibes at Camp Bow Wow. The staff have always been friendly and helpful. You can tell they all truly love animals, and that’s important to me.

In the past, the staff and “campers” have celebrated Samson’s birthday with treats, party hats, and a cute picture to commemorate it.

Camp Bow Wow is involved with the local community, too. They promote dogs up for foster or adoption on their site and accept donations for shelters in-store.

You can also watch your dog make friends on their live web cams! Yes, it is as addicting as it sounds.

If you feel like sharing the love, mention my name whenever you make an appointment and give my little furball a free day at camp!

Dog Accessories

If you're new to the whole dog parent thing, the first question you'll be asking is, "What accessories does my dog actually need?"

Answers do depend on your lifestyle, your dog's breed and size, and even your budget.

Some people swear by crate training, even if they are home during the day.

On the plus side, a crate can provide a safe space for your dog to nest and rest. Like some people, some dogs thrive on the structure crate training can give.

However, using it as a form of punishment can have negative effects in your dog's behavior. Furthermore, if you have a chaotic schedule and can't guarantee you'll make it home to let your dog out, your dog will have a difficult time potty training (and trusting you).

Since I have always had a doggy door and a way to still keep my dogs quarantined and out of mischief, I can't vouch for crate training.

Instead, we have installed doggy doors into walls and other doors. I've also used ones that fit into a sliding glass door as well. The latter work great if you're renting your home, but they aren't as budget friendly!

Dog Beds and Blankets

Just like mattresses, dog beds can range from the bare minimum to the most luxurious and outrageous.

If you have the means to get a thick orthopedic pet bed or "PupRug" from a brand like Paw, I'm not going to tell you otherwise! Spoil that fur baby.

But these waterproof bed and blanket options will suffice. They also won't break your budget.

Dog Accessories

Whether you only have a green patch in your apartment or you're an avid trail runner, your dog will need the essentials to join you.

I prefer a harness over a collar. Harnesses provide more creative liberty. The one below comes with cute velcro patches, too!

They are more comfortable for your dog, more secure, and the handles make it easier for you to manage them, as well. I do, however, have a simple collar for both dogs with their ID tags for when we are in public.

Most anywhere dogs are allowed, they must be on a leash. Retractable leashes are less work for your wrist. They also help in training your dog to learn appropriate distances.

The dog poop bag dispenser below attaches to the leash so you don't forget it at home. Please be a good human and don't leave the dog waste in a bag on the trail. Believe it or not, it defeats the purpose of poo bags...

I don't know if I've ever seen a perfect 5 star rating for any product with more than 100 views on Amazon. Seriously, the dog water bottle dispenser below is the best invention for canines IMO.

Another must-have dog accessory for the home are elevated and adjustable feeders.

Unless you have a toy dog that won't grow much, your puppy is guaranteed to get taller. Adjustable feeders are easier on your dog's neck. Senior dogs will appreciate this convenience as well.

Ours is in black, but I really like the look of the second set, too. I just have a feeling Scout would knock his over in his eager state to chow!

When people consider getting a dog, managing dog hair is one of the main concerns. Rightly so!

Even hypoallergenic dogs need grooming and brushing. Their fur can get tangled and matted with weeds, get in their eyes, and collect dirt in their paws.

Every time I wash my short-haired dogs, I brush them down with this two sided brush. Long-haired dogs like Golden Retrievers benefit from the wide-tooth side.

If your doggo is tiny or is slowing down in their golden years, pet stairs are a great implementation. Whether it's to get into your SUV or onto your bed, pet stairs will save your back and maintain their dignity :)

These aren't a necessity for everyone, but if your doggo falls into the above category then the option below is budget friendly. Although I have seen these on OfferUp for about a fourth of the price!

Practical, Safe, and Engaging Dog Toys

Unlike with children, dog toys aren't just a privilege, they are a necessity!

Puppies especially need toys to capture their short attention span, burn their endless energy, and ensure their teething is limited to something destructible rather than your shoes.

However, toys can get expensive. You spend the money on a cute plush animal only to watch it be unstuffed within a matter of minutes. Talk about discouraging.

Introducing: stuff-less toys! They squeak and crinkle but if they're gutted, your home isn't covered in fluff.

Our dogs are also quite food-stimulated (honestly, what dog isn't?). So we use toys that double as treat dispensers and keep them busy for prolonged periods.

The bone-shaped licky mats, for lack of better words, are Samson and Scout's favorites. I'll coat them in peanut butter (squeezable is easiest) or pumpkin or applesauce or mashed bananas.

Sometimes I freeze them so they will last even longer. But whenever they're done, they are usually good and tired.

Same goes for the rubber cone. I'll stuff small treats in with peanut butter or apples and either hand them to the dogs when I leave or freeze them ahead of time.

Another durable and budget friendly dog toy are these interactive dog puzzles designed by Nina Ottosson.

There are puzzles for all levels and ages. Both of my pups figured this dog brick out no problem, same with the treat maze, which are both labeled intermediate.

The point isn't to stump them, necessarily. But studies do show that stimulating a dog's brain with interactive toys that encourage them to use their senses gives them a more fulfilling life and helps reduce anxiety and restlessness.

Dog Food and Treats

In my humble opinion, dogs should be eating fresh food.

Think about it. If you ate carby, dry cereal at every meal, your body would suffer.

Thus, I try to incorporate fresh food products in Scout and Samson's diet as much as possible.

From a young age, Samson has always loved crunchy veggies. He'll munch up celery, zucchini, kale stems, carrots, and broccoli. Fruits, too! If Andrew or I eat an apple, Samson is right there to help us finish off the core (after we remove the seeds).

Other "human" foods my dogs love include sweet potato, pureed pumpkin, mashed banana, berries, eggs and yogurt in moderation, and probably more.

I do not, however, like to give them any grains or starches. Would you ever catch a wolf or wild dog eating an ear of corn on its own instinct? No.

For their meals, I sometimes lightly cook raw, high protein meats and organs with some pure grade salmon oil. I bought mine as a two pack from Costco but Amazon has the same ones.

My mom gets all her raw dairy and organic meats from Miller Farms in PA, and they specifically create a raw pet food blend my boys gobble up. For the sake of sticking to a budget, I try to make these packages last.

To take advantage of first-time offers and whatnot, I've tried brands like the Farmer's Dog and Nom Nom, but they are far too expensive.

I found it was easier and cheaper to make my own dog food either from final clearance meats at the store or from Miller Farms.

When I'm not making DIY dog food from fresh, wholesome ingredients, I feel confident feeding my dogs Orijen dry dog food. All the ingredients are easy to understand and of the highest quality you can get for dry food.

Although a 25 lb. bag is pricey, it does last about a month and a half.

As far as store-bought healthy dog treats, the options are limited but getting better.

I never let my dogs chew on bones unattended. But I do believe it can be great for their teeth and gums. However, for a treat that is long-lasting, easy on digestion, and something that is safe to leave with them if I am busy, I stock up on bully sticks.

The ones below comes from 100% grass-fed beef and are completely bone-free so they will not splinter or be a choking hazard. They also aren't smelly like other brands out there (trust me, it can be horrendous).

Lastly, although it may not be considered a treat for all dogs, the Remedy Rescue is something I rarely use but feel better having on hand.

Samson has become more nervous in his golden years. Like CBD peanut butter, drops from this natural pet homeopathic help relieve his anxiety for big events like the 4th of July.

For Dog Owners

As a dog owner, there are some accessories necessary for you to own to make your life easier, too. Just because you're a pet parent doesn't mean you can't have nice things!

If you know a new dog owner, some of these items also make great gifts. Check out this previous post for other gift basket ideas!

Got dog hair? Get lint rollers.

Even better, a Chom Chom roller removes dog hair from tough spots, like woven sofa cushions. I've used this on my truck floorboards and had great success!

If your dog isn't hypoallergenic, he or she will most likely shed. Unless you have a super old car you couldn't care less about, your backseat will need a seat cover to keep dog hair at bay.

I like ones like this because the screen gives your dog more visibility and allows better airflow to the backseat.

Not so budget friendly initially, I am grateful I invested in these sleek and durable pet storage towers.

For one, they were super easy to put together. The pedal opens the bottom bin. I store the dogs' dry food in this section since it's the heaviest.

In the top I keep dry treats, extra toys, shampoo, and brushes. I love that these must-have dog products are organized and out of sight.

Regardless if you install a doggy door or not, your dog will still absent-mindedly dribble water or track in dirty paws on occasion.

This calls for an absorbent doormat where they can wipe their doggy feet before entering.

Generally, if you wash your dog often enough there shouldn't be a "dog smell" lingering in your home.

However, odor eliminator spray is still a smart thing to keep on hand.

Speaking of spray, did you know weed spray is one of the most toxic, cancer-causing household products on the market? Brands like Raid and Round-Up are dangerous for anyone, but especially dogs as they are closest to the affected areas.

If you have a yard and need to rid it of weeds, consider a harmless weed killer like this one. Your nose will pinch at the vinegar smell, but hey, it's worth dog allergies.

And speaking of yard, where there is dog food, there will be dog poop to scoop.

Look at this nifty contraption! This looks so much more efficient than a shovel and rake.

Final Thoughts: Essentials for Dogs and Their Owners

By now you might be wondering about whether to microchip, vaccinate regularly, neuter or spay, professionally train, and invest in dog health care like ear drops or flea and tick treatments.

For the last, I'd say these should only be purchased on a need-only basis. Not all areas are flea and tick infested.

If your dog loves to swim, keeping ear drops handy could be a good idea.

Samson refuses to be submerged in water any further than his chest. Scout, on the other hand, sticks his whole head under water without hesitation. Water in dog ears can cause irritation, as well as dirt.

You may not use the dropper often, but it could prevent a visit to the vet!

Regarding neutering/spaying, it really is up to you.

If you don't plan on breeding your dog, I would urge you to get them fixed. There are more than enough strays and unwanted pets out there.

Although it isn't budget friendly, it might save you in the long run. It's not common, but some dogs can suffer certain diseases if they are not fixed. There's also a chance your male dog could be aggressive or territorial if not neutered, as well.

When I adopted Samson, he was 3 months old and already neutered, microchipped, and had his initial puppy vaccinations. Ever since he stopped going to Camp Bow Wow, though, I never kept up with his vaccines.

We go for walks and out camping, but he is rarely around other dogs. He is ten years old now and besides recent joint stiffness, he is the epitome of health and happiness.

Because I now have such a great rewards program setup with Petco, though, I'm happy to keep Scout up to date on his vaccines, at least until he outgrows doggy daycare.

I've never had the need to use the microchip. But that's also a good thing. Then again, it's always good to be safe than sorry.

Since microchipping only costs about $50, I'd consider it a budget friendly must-have for your dog.

As far as training goes, ideally you want to start when they are an itty bitty puppy. They bond with you at a young age and therefore adjust to your lifestyle and your authoritative commands much easier.

I feel most dog parents can and should at least be part of their dog's behavioral training. Even if you don't facilitate it, it's important your dog knows your voice and your rules.

Anything they learn at puppy school will go out the window if you don't enforce it.

Dogs are built to please. You are their world and they're just grateful to be in it!

Ultimately, as long as you give your dog the love and positive discipline they need, they will aim to make you happy.

Lastly, if you're looking for a dog friendly road trip this summer, check out my dog friendly Durango post!

Good luck to you and your furry best friend!