While this isn’t another post about COVID-19 the topic of when to buy or DIY for your dog may have come up more frequently thanks to the pandemic. If you’re limiting your exposure to the outside world, or you’ve lost your job or part of your income due to the virus there are many good reasons to look at what you’re spending money on and where you might be able to save when it comes to your pup.
When to Buy:
Scissors and trimmers are sharp and if not handled correctly you risk cutting your pup. Also, dogs tend to not exactly love to stand perfectly still so a DIY haircut on your dog will be much more challenging than on your partner or an older child. We really and truly recommend leaving this to the pros. We’ll talk about some other maintenance tasks you can DIY to save some time and money at the groomer, but this isn’t the place to try it yourself.
When to DIY:
Bathing your dog at home can be pretty easy if you have a small or short-haired dog who doesn’t mind the occasional bath. While longer haired dogs and pups who hate the tub may pose a bigger challenge at bathtime, we have faith in you! A few tips to set you up for success include:
- Start slowly - introduce your dog to the bath gradually and with loads of delicious treats.
- For smaller dogs, they might feel safer in the sink than in the bathtub or shower. If your pup seems nervous and that is an option, give that a try.
- For larger dogs, consider doing their bath in the shower. You might need some kind of hair catcher for the drain so it doesn’t get clogged, especially if you have a shedder!
- Use a handheld showerhead for your pup. Yours will work just fine if it reaches okay, but if not Water Pik makes a great one that you can purchase for your pup.
- Be careful if you use a blow dryer on your dog. They can get very hot and burn and they are loud so keep them out of your pup’s ears.
Brushing Your Dog's Hair and Teeth
If you want to save some cash at both the vet and the groomer, keeping up with brushing your dog can be a big help. Pet parents who regularly brush their dog’s hair between grooming appointments can help tame tangles and keep their dogs from getting painful mats in their hair. If you only take your pup to the groomer every 6-8 weeks, your dog has plenty of time to get matted in-between visits.
Your groomer, no matter how skilled, won’t be able to brush through the mats and will need to shave your pup. To avoid this, make sure you’re brushing your dog daily or as directed by your groomer.
If your pup hates or fears the brush, start slowly. Even if you just do a few brush strokes paired with some high-value treats and go at a pace that is comfortable for your dog, you’ll still see progress over time. The goal is with some patience and regular practice your dog will tolerate brushing so you don’t have to shave matted fur anymore.
Brushing your dog’s teeth at home regularly is another great task you can do yourself to help your dog live a healthier life. Since getting your pup to hold still for a professional cleaning is all but impossible, The American Animal Hospital Association only certifies practitioners who perform dental work under anesthesia.
Some practices offer anesthesia-free dentistry, which sounds great but the AAHA suggests you steer clear! According to the 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, anesthesia-free dentistry is neither safer nor sufficiently comparable to supra- and subgingival cleaning in an anesthetized patient, and is therefore unacceptable.
To keep your pup from needing frequent dental cleanings at the vet’s office, the best thing you can do as an owner is brush your pup’s teeth daily so that plaque and tartar don’t build up in the first place. If you don’t know how to do it, ask your vet or a tech for a quick demo. And remember, never let your dog borrow your toothpaste, it could make them sick.
Ear Cleaning and Nail Trimming
These two maintenance tasks can be completed with a bath if your pup will tolerate it, but if that’s too much in one day feel free to do these another time. Many pups don’t love having their nails trimmed and if your pup is really struggling with it, you will need to put in some time and effort to help them get more comfortable.
You may have seen the lady on TikTok who wrapped her head in saran wrap and covered it with peanut butter for her pup to lick while she worked. It went viral and got many laughs but we don’t exactly recommend this method. While this person and her dog likely had a good and trusting relationship, she still put herself in a compromising position.
Since her pup was licking her head she couldn’t watch her dog for signs of fear or stress, putting her at risk for a bite that she could have easily de-escalated before her pup felt the need to strike. While using peanut butter or spray cheese to distract your pup is a fine idea, we recommend putting it on the wall so your pup can lick while you work AND you can keep an eye on them.
One other note about nail trimming. Dog’s nails have a blood vessel in them often referred to as the quick. If you cut down too far, you will cut the quick and yes, your dog will bleed and yes, it will hurt!
Keeping your pup’s ears clean and dry will help you prevent ear infections. The occasional ear infection may still happen, especially if your pup is prone to them or enjoys being in the water. Keeping your pup’s ears healthy and clean is something you can easily do at home.
Remember to ensure your pup’s ears are nice and dry after a bath. You can ask your vet about a cleaning solution to use at home with some cotton. The doctor or tech can demonstrate and advise on how often to clean.
If your pup does end up with an ear infection - have the vet take a look. While there are some home remedies, this is not the place to DIY.
Dog Toys and Treats
When to Buy:
There are so many great toys on the market for any dog to enjoy. From stuffed animals to chew toys and even interactive puzzles, you can find something for your pup to play with no matter what they’re interested in. Some of our current favorites include:
- The Game - Fable Pets
- Burrows - Zippy Paws
- Bark Box Super Chewer subscription
- Classic Launcher - ChuckIt!
When purchasing toys make sure they are size appropriate for your pup. You can also do a quick google search to check for recalls or issues with injuries from common toys before you make a purchase. If you need some recommendations for your new puppy or rescue, you can chat with a trainer for some suggestions.
There are probably thousands of dog treats on the market. From training treats to doggie birthday cake there is something to suit every situation. There are also treats that claim to help with everything from eyesight, to healthy coats and joint pain relief.
When choosing a treat to purchase consider your dog’s nutritional needs and what you’ll use the treats for. For a dog with no food allergies who is at a healthy weight you have many choices. We recommend our single ingredient snacks or other treats with a limited number of real food ingredients. You can even offer your pet foods you enjoy like strawberries, blueberries, pumpkin puree, cucumbers and even cheese or popcorn.
If you are going to use a treat specifically for training sessions consider a smaller lower-calorie treat. Wet Noses Peanut Butter Little Stars are a great choice as they are among some of the smallest on the market - so you can use plenty in your training session.
Older dogs may have trouble chewing so you might consider a soft and chewy treat like the ones from Bocce’s bakery if you want to purchase something special.
For a special occasion, the Lazy Dog Cookie Company makes cake mixes so you can easily whip up a puppy birthday cake without needing an advanced culinary course!
If you love to DIY there are plenty of ways to make your own dog toys! Store bought dog toys can be expensive so if you’re looking to stretch your creativity and save a few dollars, consider the DIY route. The AKC has rounded up some great DIY toy ideas for you to try. You’ll need some items commonly found around the house like a muffin tin, toilet paper or paper towel rolls, tennis balls and some old, but clean towels.
DIY Treat Recipes:
If you’re known in your circle of friends as the Martha Stewart of the group, you might want to make your own dog treats. We’ve collected plenty of great recipes starring pumpkin and blueberries but there are tons of recipes out there for every skill level and taste.
While you can cut a lot of these home made treats into cute shapes with cookie cutters, you can save tons of time with one simple hack. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut your dough into little squares. This will allow you to DIY much more quickly since you won’t have to roll and cut dough repeatedly.
Even if you don’t want to DIY dog treats for everyday use, it might be fun to make your dog something special for their birthday, gotcha day or any one of the fake internet holidays like National Dog Day, National Mutt Day or even National Peanut Butter Day!
Our go-to pupcake recipe is this incredible peanut butter & banana recipe from Jill McIntosh. We like to bake this batter in a 6-inch cake pan or muffin tins. It can easily be halved for a smaller portion and frosted and decorated how you please. We love to mix peanut butter and cream cheese for a yummy frosting your pup will love.
Decorating ideas include fresh berries, unsweetened coconut and small dog treats. You can even use the tiny Milk Bones on top of cupcakes! This might even help ensure the other humans in the house know they’re dog treats.
Training your pup
When to Buy:
If your pup is showing any signs of aggression, food reactivity or other worrisome behaviors it’s best to call in a pro. They can work 1:1 with you to help get to the root of the problem and find a solution. With any sudden behavior change its important to rule out pain or another underlying medical condition before working with a trainer to modify the behavior!
When to DIY:
If you’re working to teach your pup some of the basic obedience commands like sit, and stay or walking nicely on a leash the AKC and many dog trainers have videos you can easily find online.
You can even find some video lessons for training tricks from the comfort of your own home. Even if you do end up purchasing some video lessons, these will be much more cost effective than group classes or private lessons. If COVID is still a concern where you live, this approach will keep you busy and safe at home!
Feeding your dog
When to Buy:
While you can cook 100% of your dog’s meals we don’t recommend that you do. If you don’t know exactly what you are doing you can accidentally cause micronutrient imbalances and vitamin deficiencies in your pup. If you are able to provide complete nutrition, it may also be extremely time consuming and expensive.
This is actually one of the reasons we started Ollie! We wanted to provide human-grade gently cooked food that had the best nutrition for our pups. Now we are pleased to also share our delicious Recipes with your pups as well.
To keep our food as nutritious and safe as possible we ship directly to your door in conveniently sealed and frozen packs. The packs can stay frozen in your freezer and thaw as needed in your refrigerator. Your food will be fresh in the refrigerator up to 4 days after opening the pack.
When to DIY:
Just because you shouldn’t cook 100% of your pups meals doesn’t mean you can’t ever cook for them! Sharing grilled chicken or fish with your pup (plain) is a fun way to provide additional protein and keep them from getting bored. Your pup can also enjoy eggs, some veggies and even bone broth if you want to make it for them!
Another time you might need to DIY your pup’s meals is if they’re under the weather. If your vet has you put your pup on a bland diet, you can make those meals yourself instead of purchasing expensive prescription diets. Make sure your vet is on board and has given you guidance on what to prepare and how much you can feed. You also want to plan for how you’ll transition your pet back to their normal food so they don’t get sick again.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.