Indefinitely Wild

The Best Dog Gear

The 11 products I rely on for my awesome dog

Wiley in the mountains above Los Angeles a few weeks ago. The one tip every dog owner needs to know: an exhausted dog is a good dog. We hike every day. (Wes Siler)

Owning a dog is unbelievably cheap, especially when you factor in the remarkable improvements it will bring to your health, fitness, and human relationships. But a few well-chosen purchases help make day-to-day life with your dog a little bit easier. Here’s the stuff that works for me and Wiley.

Carabineers

I keep two large Black Diamond locking carabineers on my leash. One to connect the leash to Wiley’s harness and one to make tying him up—to a rack, handrail, or even my belt—quick and easy. The ’biner works better than the little clips most leashes come with because it’s stronger and won’t clog up with mud or sand. A locking design will securely clip leash to harness no matter how much it gets knocked around. They’re quick, they work, they’re secure, and they last forever.

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Travel Bowl

I’ve tried all the various folding, collapsible, and soft designs. All of them fail, and all are difficult to clean. MSR designed this stainless-steel camping bowl for people, but its simple, robust design works just as well for your dog. I keep it in the truck to give Wiley water on road trips. I take it backpacking to hold his food and water. It’s easy to clean and durable.

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Benadryl

Wiley and I live in Los Angeles and recreate all over the western United States, Canada, and Mexico. Basically anywhere I can drive to. There are rattlesnakes out here. Wiley’s been trained to leave them alone, but should he get bitten, his throat can swell closed due to an allergic reaction to the venom.

Breaking up some Benadryl pills, shoving them in your water bottle, and squeezing that down your dog’s throat should buy you enough time to hike out of wherever you are and get him to a vet. You probably want to talk to your vet about this first, but the formula I’ve been given is one milligram per pound of body weight, up to two or three times a day.

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Rear-Seat Hammock

Wiley sheds. Wiley is generally filthy. A Ruffwear Dirt Bag seat cover keeps all that mess off your leather and saves you hours of vacuuming fur from your car’s every orifice. Basically, it pays for itself immediately.

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Bayer Seresto Flea and Tick Collar

In all of Wiley’s four years, I’ve only ever found two ticks on him. And fleas never bother him. That’s because he wears a Bayer Seresto collar. Its time-release repellant seems to work better than anything else we’ve tried. At $50 for eight months, it’s also affordable.

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Coconut Oil

A miracle drug for dogs, coconut oil can be used both orally and topically. I supplement Wiley with a tablespoon or two a day. It helps regulate his thyroid function and improves the health of his joints, skin, and fur. Topically, it can keep wounds from becoming infected yet is safe for the dog to lick. A light coating of melted coconut oil from a spray bottle helps repel fleas and ticks if you’re going somewhere particularly known for them.

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Bandana

It doesn’t make any sense, but some people are afraid of dogs. And due to Wiley’s natural tiger-stripe camo, he’s particularly prone to surprising people in the woods. A brightly colored bandana makes him look friendlier and helps people see him. If we’re in the woods during hunting season, I make sure his bandana is blaze orange.

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Leash

Dog leashes suck. The retractable ones allow your dog to get too far from you and easily break, making them dangerous. The short ones are way better but can be uncomfortable to hold because they’re so thin. I make my own six-foot leash from accessory cord for climbing. The braids increase the diameter, making the leash a better fit for my large hands. The contours make it easy to grip securely. The cord doesn’t soak up water or hold onto dirt, and it’s way, way stronger than you’ll ever need it to be. As a bonus, you end up carrying spare rope with you wherever you go. If you need some, just undo the braids, cut off four feet or so to serve as your dog’s emergency leash, and use the rest for whatever you need.

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Harness

Wiley weighs about as much as my girlfriend. Now that he’s all grown up, he’s way better about pulling, but put a cat or a squirrel in front of him, and it’s game over. A good walking harness will reduce the force he’s able to apply by half. A harness also keeps all that yanking off his neck. Outdoors, a load-bearing harness like this one from Ruffwear allows you to safely lift your dog up and down obstacles.

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Good Food

Wiley prefers to feast upon the flesh and bones of the innocent. But when I can’t feed him fresh game or bones from the butcher, he eats kibble. Making sure that kibble is the highest quality possible visibly benefits Wiley’s health with a shinier coat, healthier weight, more energy, and solid poops. There are lots of good options out there. To find one, just read the labels and choose a brand with ingredients you can pronounce and are familiar with.

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The Most Important Dog Gear of All

I start my new dog-owner friends with this book. It’s just a beginning. Training and socialization are the best investments you can make in a dog and are a lifelong, ongoing process. Spend time doing it right and developing a confident dog, and you’ll have the best companion possible.

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