Gear Guide for New Dog Parents (also, The Story of Adopting Fritz)

About Fritz

Last fall, we (finally!) adopted a 10-month-old scruffy mix that we named Fritz. Here are his shelter mug shots!

We didn’t know much about Fritz until we brought him to his first vet appointment. The poor pup was exhausted all the time, and we found out why: he was underweight, had fleas, hookworm, and allergies that made his paws turn red. We also got a copy of his original vet paperwork, and reading it made me so sad – he was found around Christmas, weighing just 5 pounds.

When he first got home, he slept all the time, especially once he was on his meds. While we didn’t prep many items for Fritz befoe we got him, what we did have ready was a big brown dog bed. A few years ago, I worked with Last Hope K9 Rescue and fostered four dogs with them over the course of 2 years: Julius, Holly, Paul, and Kingsley. While fostering, I got a very large, very brown, ugly, cheap dog bed from PetSmart. I didn’t know what size of dogs I’d be fostering, so I figured a bigger bed would do.

Once I stopped fostering in 2013, I held onto the dog bed for the day I would adopt my own pup. Throughout 2014 and 2015 I frequently dog sat Paul, so it was his bed every time he stayed with me. Then in 2015, I packed up all things so I could travel. In 2016 I moved in with roommates. In 2017 I moved in with my boyfriend. Paul passed away that year. And throughout all the moves across town, I held onto the big, ugly dog bed because I knew that some day I’d adopt a pup and I wanted him to have Paul’s bed. Then in August 2017, the bed was claimed by scruffy, sleepy Fritz!

Puppy Setup

Fritz showing off his Easy Walk Harness.

As a new dog owner, I wasn’t really sure what to buy or what would work. It took a bit of trial and error, and now I have a final list of items we regularly use.

  • Easy Walk Harness: A lifesaver. When we first got Fritz, he didn’t know how to walk on a leash and really pulled. The Easy Walk Harness helped him walk comfortably beside us. Be sure to size-up a bit if your pup is less than a year old – Fritz grew into his over a few months.
  • Kong collar: Sturdy, quiet, and unfussy to clasp.
  • Leash: We got a cheap, $6, 6-foot nylon leash from PetSmart with a loop at the end. Leashes get gnawed on, tossed around, coiled up, and lost, so cheap worked for us.
  • Slow feeder: Our dog gulps down his food, so quickly that he hiccups after every meal. So, we got him this colorful slow feeder to help him pace himself (it works!).
  • Collapsible dog bowl: In the summers, Fritz would get thirsty on long walks. This bowl zips up nicely in a plastic cover so water doesn’t get all over your bag.
  • Regalo Baby Gate: I wish we had gotten this sooner. We started with a cheap wood gate from Target ($12), but it was super annoying to use. This gate is tall (Fritz can’t jump over it), simple to install, and easy to use. It’s low-profile, which is important for apartment living. It’s also easy to remove, too. We often have people over for parties or dinners, and we’ll just put the gate away when everyone’s here.
  • Great Choice Crate: Sturdy and simple to assemble. Fritz sleeps in it every night. To disassemble it, the top and bottom half stack on top of each other easily – this is important for road trips.
  • Pogi’s biodegradable poop bags: If I’m picking up smelly poop twice a day (hooray city living), I’m going to get the scented stuff! These bags are biodegradable, scented, easy to tear, and easy to open. Zero complaints here.
  • Items that I didn’t care about, so I just went cheap: water bowl, food mat, and food container.

Training Helpers

Puppy School Graduate

We took Fritz to beginner and intermediate training at PetSmart Everett. I so highly recommend them, along with our instructor Chris. The classes are affordable, and like any other class, you get out what you put into it. After going for a few weeks, Fritz nailed his sit, stay, down, on your bed, shake, and come.

  • Treat totes: For class and long dog walks, it’s helpful to have these training totes full of treats. It’s very un-glamorous but at least your coat pockets won’t smell like bacon bits.
  • Zuke’s Training Treats: After lots of trial and error, these are our favorite training treats. They are tiny, which is good for long training sessions. They’re also chewy and smell good – important lures for a pup! Keep the bag sealed, though, since they dry out quickly.
  • PetSmart Clicker: They give you these for free when you start class, and we have a handful of them lying around the houe. I’m pretty sure that if you walk up to the PetSmart counter and ask for them, they’ll just give them to you.

Recommended Toys

  • The Classic Kong: Just fill with some peanut butter for an hour of fun. I had this leftover from my foster days, and every dog I had loved it.
  • Charming Cuddle Zebra: We don’t get many soft toys because you should be around when they have access to the toy. This is the only soft toy that has held up for months, and it’s still Fritz’s favorite toy. We make most of our toy purchases at the pet clearance endcap at Target, this we got for less than $3.
  • Bone chews: Fritz is a chewer, and we’ve found these two bones to be his favorites. They are both very durable as we’ve had them for months now: the wishbone-shaped Benebone, and the antler-shaped Nylabone.
  • Fetch toy: We also have a rope-and-tennis ball combo toy that we only bring out when we’re in the park, and we play fetch with it.

Pet People and Places

One thing people don’t tell you about getting a dog is the huge network of people and places you’ll need to get acquainted with. Maybe it’s a bit easier if you live near family, but if you’re a city dweller without family around, you need a puppy support system. Here are a few important things to figure out.

  • Vet. As city folks, we chose the vet closest to us – it’s a 15-minute walk from our house which means we don’t need to hop in the car and drive. They had decent reviews online and we’ve been happy with them so far.
  • Training. As a new dog owner, definitely sign up for a few training classes. In addition to training your pup, you’re also training yourself – the instructor will give you lots of helpful tips on everything from feeding to daily walks.
  • Daycare. Every once in a while, I’ll be in a pinch where I need to leave for an entire day but can’t leave Fritz home alone for that long. We found a dog daycare a 15-minute walk from our house that is open during regular business hours. It takes a while to get “set up” with a daycare (usually some paperwork and assessments), but once you’re done it’s nice to have a backup place.
  • Boarding. If you’re lucky enough to live near family, or friends who have dogs, then you’re all set. If you don’t, finding a good boarding place is key. I don’t recommend PetSmart for this – we’ve had bad experiences with them and Fritz spent most of the day in a cage. I also don’t recommend Rover – we tried a few times but it was impossible to coordinate with other people’s schedules. Take the time to find a reputable, local dog boarding place with lots of room for your pup to roam. It will put your mind at ease while you’re away.
  • Walkers. We haven’t needed these yet, but at dog parks and in my neighborhood I’ve run into a few dog walkers. I’ve always made sure to take down their phone number in case I need a walker in the future.
  • Pet Store. While we use Amazon for many of our dog orders, the best local pet store we’ve found (by far) is Fish & Bone. While most pet stores seem to only sell overpriced treats, Fish & Bone curates their items carefully and we’ve found lots of useful stuff.

Costumes & CLothes

This section is just an excuse for me post these Halloween pictures…

… but on a serious note, we did pick up a few winter items for Fritz during the January cold snap, when it was well below freezing. After seeing him shiver on longer walks, we got him a warm winter coat from Fish & Bone. We also got him dog booties after seeing him whimper in pain from chemical salts on city sidewalks. The best we found were the Prumya boots from Amazon, which were sturdy, easy to put on, and easy to find (because your dog will lose them in the snow). Pro tip: know that your dog could be different sizes in the front and back paws (Fritz is an L in the front paws and M in the back paws).

Fritz with his Canada Pooch Vest and Prumya Boots


In writing this blog post, I pulled up Fritz’s vet paperwork and realized there was a shelter listed on the day he was found. I googled the shelter, found their Facebook page, and looked for photos from 2016. I immediately started crying when I recognized a baby-faced Fritz (formerly known as Joey). We knew nothing about our pup when we adopted him this fall, and never throught we’d see his baby pics. I’m so grateful they posted these and kept them online.