17 must-have items for a dog’s first year and beyond

After 3 years of trial and error with our German Shepherd dog (GSD), we have built our own list of tried and tested must-have items that have worked for us to keep our adventure with our boy as smooth as possible. I list the products below. (This is an unsponsored post.) Certainly, a large breed dog is not a frugal-friendly type of pet, we have come to find out; but it does help to know which items work to limit the cost of care. Our first year got to be quite expensive with the combination of new equipment and necessary first-year medical expenses.

Our GSD has a very strong prey drive. A strong prey drive means he chases after everything that is moving.  Be it people on loud motorcycles, people on loud ride-on mowers, ducks, birds, rabbits, spiders, leaves, the list goes on, which only increases with boredom and pent-up energy. Prey drive during walks = pulling. So, it is absolutely prime, I have the right tools to keep him from possibly dislocating my arm or dragging me during our daily adventures. His current weight is 95 lbs. Read what it’s like to have a GSD in the family here.

Our GSD drinking from his portable water dispenser bottle


It can be foldable and portable or it can be stationary. Whichever you choose, this is necessary. We bought a portable and foldable type of kennel as we love to travel and brought the kennel along with us to keep him safe visiting family out of town during his early years. We got one good for up to 90 lbs. Unfortunately, our GSD outgrew it and we had to upgrade.

In the first year, we used it to keep him safe when we weren’t home to watch during his teething stages when he chomped on anything and everything he wanted to. The second year, he hurt himself jumping off the car and started limping. The vet advised keeping his mobility limited by keeping him in a crate so that his leg would heal faster.

Tips on kennels:

  • Buy one that has room to grow to avoid having to buy another one later on.
  • Most large kennel comes with a space adjustor, which limits their space inside. As they grow, it can be readjusted. Dogs do not like to dirty up their sleeping area.  However, allowing too much space will give them the space to leave their excrements in another part of the kennel.


Since finding out about Sense-ation harness from our dog trainer, we have not bought any other type since.

This particular harness places the leash attachment ring on his chest area, as opposed to his back like many harnesses are created to do. Sense-ation harness does not control the pulling 100% for me but it has certainly made our outings much more controllable.


I’ve gone thru several types of leashes. Some hurt my hands from his tugging/pulling. In the end, we ended up a leash made out of the same materials as mountain climbing ropes. It certainly is sturdy but soft enough for my hands.

I’ve tried several types during the first year, and upon finding this item, I’ve never switched back to any of the other types I see at the stores or online.

Dog Food

I buy my dry dog food at the Exchange to save on tax; but, it is also available at several pet stores. There’s certainly a lot of food choices. I buy Wellness Grain Free Dry Food for mine.

Tips on pet food:

Several pet stores have a loyalty perk where you can get $10 off a $60, for example, sent thru your inbox. Consider signing up for it to maximize your savings. You may also go make your dog’s own food. Read my post here about DIYing dog food and see if it’s worth the effort.

Dry Food Container

I bought a Vittle Pet Dry Food Storage from Marshall’s to store my pup’s dry food. I’ve been using this since day 1. It is durable, holds 30 lbs worth of dry food, airtight and protects the food from ants, which we are known to have at the beginning of Spring on and off.

We still have the original from three years ago. Our GSD cannot open it because it has a screw type lid. He has, however, tore a dry food bag before when I left it on the floor because I wanted to finish what was left in the container first.

Feeding Bowl

I prefer a stainless steel bowl over plastic and since my dog gobbles up his food so fast, I bought one that blocks the middle area of the bowl so that it forces my dog to eat around the middle circle. It’s supposed to slow down his eating.  It also has rubber on the bottom to stop it from moving across the floor during feeding.

I also find that one bowl is sufficient. I use my one bowl for both water and feeding, as I don’t let his food stay out all day. He either finishes it during his meal or I throw it out. Most days, he finishes it, unless he’s under the weather, which happens. Water is out for him all day.

My bud eats messily, read my post about another great pet product that reduces water spillage on the floor, cutting cleaning time and utility cost.

The Cone of Shame

I got my dog cone when I got him neutered. On the same day, I received a dog cone to stop him from licking his stitches open. I didn’t get rid of it because I find that it is extra helpful in keeping him from licking his itch or injury. I’ve used it several times over the 3 years he’s been with us to stop him from licking his groin area to the point that it’s red and sore, for example.

You won’t need anything fancy, just something to keep him from licking himself to rawness. I find plastic is easier to clean than fabric. He bangs it all over the house when he has it on. So, I’m due for a new one.

Flea Meds

I administer the flea meds myself every month. While you can certainly have the vet administer one that lasts for several months, I opted for a monthly one. I’ve tried two manufacturers of flea meds thus far. Between the two, I prefer Bayer Advantix. Since I do use it every month, I try to save on it by buying in bulk online. This product kills and repels fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.

Heartworm Meds

Heartworm meds are also administered once a month. I get mine directly from my vet.

Nail Clipper

In the beginning, I was using the nail clipper to trim my dog’s nails. It needed to be. Once I started walking him religiously, I haven’t the need to trim it. Recently, he chipped one of his nails. I needed one to cut his nail shorter. I don’t need anything fancy. Certainly, you may take your dog to a grooming salon but I wanted to save money so I do it myself.

Hair Trimmer

While I think taking my dog to the groomers will probably make my life easier, I still opt to trim my dog’s hair myself, which means I need a trimmer. I actually just use one of my husband’s old hair trimmer. It works but it takes a while for me to get done. I’m looking to upgrade.


This is to help get rid of loose hair and minimize the tumbleweed of hair on the floor and sofas. I like the slicker types and at a push of a button it pushes all the hair to the top for easier cleanup. GSDs have lots of hair and it gets tangled around the rear area, belly, and ears. So a hairbrush will help keep it detangled and minimize the vacuum cleaning – I find sweeping not sufficient to clean pet hair.

Portable Travel Water Container

In the beginning, I bought this very convenient portable pet travel water dispenser, it comes with a water bowl attachment, all in the size of a water bottle. I bought mine from Marshall’s. It worked for a little bit, but the bigger he got, the more water he needed.  So he outgrew it. Pictured above.

I bought a collapsible silicon bowl next and just bring water in one of our large reusable water bottles. It also comes with a clip so I can clip the bowl to his leash and just get water from a water fountain if need be.


I don’t have a shampoo preference as of yet but I do use quite a bit of these, so when I can save I try to. I buy them from Marshall’s or TJMaxx or grocery stores or pet stores and/or from Amazon if I need to fill up a shopping minimum to get free shipping.

I’ve also tried giving him a bath at a Self-Service Dog Wash. I have to say, it is so much better for my back. Read our experience here. 


This was a great time for me to buy new towels. haha. I just used our old ones for our dog. White ones are better for me because I can use bleach when I wash them clean. Thank goodness for the Sanitize option on our new laundry machine.

Sturdy Toys

My boy can do serious damage around the house when he’s bored, which is imperative that his toys can sustain his wrath when I try to burn that pent-up energy. One of his favorite toys is balls. To give you an example of his bite, he can pierce a basketball and soccer ball fairly easily with his mouth so that he can pick it up. While I can continue to purchase basketballs for him to play with, this is not cost effective at all for my budget.

Smaller rubber balls work just as well at keeping him entertained. If it squeaks, the better. I’ve got ones that have lasted all 3 years despite his chewing, and it only cost less than $5 .


I started off with just blankets since I needed the bedding to be easily washable. After he was potty trained, I bought him a memory foam type bed. I’ve gone thru 2 of these for two reasons: 1.) he outgrew it and 2.) he loved to dig on it, tearing it to shreds.  I was able to sew it shut but after several repairs, I got rid of it all together.


Memory Foam dog beds are not fully washable, at least the ones I got. It just simply won’t fit in my washer. Because I couldn’t wash it, it carried a smell for me, which is why I opted to get rid of it all together.

When training, portable beds are great. He always knows he has a special place to sleep. Now we don’t have a bed for him, he just sleeps anywhere, mostly on the sofa.

It is also helpful when leaving him at the kennel to have something of a familiar scent during his stay. Although, whenever I bring him back from the kennel, he stinks. So the bed must be easily washable in order for me to bring it to the kennel. Thick blankets should be a good alternative to beds.

Final Words

Dogs are certainly not a frugal-friendly type of pet, especially since I do have a large breed dog. I try to save on items when I can. Over the span of three years, I have found what works for us to make life more enjoyable with our large breed dog. Utlimately, not one product will work for everyone; but, it does help to have an idea what does or does not work to minimize the cost of trial and error. If I have to choose my fave must-have product from what I have mentioned, the Sense-ation will be it. I have gone thru several types of leashes and this has worked for me. I have not tried anything else after since it has been working so far.

Give your pet(s) plenty of love and attention and you will reap the rewards of your labor.

Until next time.




6 thoughts on “17 must-have items for a dog’s first year and beyond”

    1. Now that I know which items works for me, I can now save money by not having to do the trial and error we had to go thru on our first dog for our next dog. Oh the money that got spent all to find what works…maybe I can save someone money too by sharing my experiences.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and showing my blog some love. I appreciate your support.

  1. thanks for sharing your tips! He’s such a cutie! I always wanted a dog but don’t have the finances or the time to care for one yet. But one day!

    1. Yes, one day. Dog upkeep can be costly, so all in due time, when you are ready. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your mark on my blog, Juliet.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Molly. I appreciate you taking the time to leave your mark on my blog. I’ve definitely have learned from trial error, and it was costly. Hoping to save others some expense by sharing what has worked for us. I have to admit, my boy is handsome. Thank you.

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