Q & Answer: Dog Accessories That Don’t Suck

Tom writes: I am about to become the owner of a puppy and have begun the search for all the junk that comes with it.  It’s dawned on me that this is about to unleash (pun intended) a tsunami of ugly synthetic fibres, vulgar paw print patterns, tacky coloured nylon webbing and plastic crap-o-la all over the house. I’ll be the one tasked with the lion’s share of dog walking duties and don’t see why I should have to besmirch a well chosen outfit by accessorising it with a dog wearing a stupid looking collar, tag & lead with all the longevity and panache of a teenagers Velcro tabbed wallet.

Any leads (more punning I’m afraid) on where to buy well made and tastefully designed dog baskets, bedding and tackle would be really appreciated.

When my wife and I got our first dog, Cocoa (the brown one, above) some years ago, we started with basic dog equipment. Nylon collar and leash, a bed from Target. I was shocked at how quickly they became tattered and gross.

I replaced Cocoa’s collar and leash with Filson. They were a bit expensive, but not extraordinarily so, and they look and work even better now, five years later, than they did then. I clean them with a bit of saddle soap and put a little Lexol on them every few months, but besides that, I’ve done nothing. My only disappointment is that the hardware seems to be brass plated, rather than solid brass, so the finish has worn a bit.

My other dog, Sissy (the napper pictured above), is a bit smaller than Cocoa. Since Cocoa wears the small size Filson collar on the last hole, we thought we’d have to settle for nylon. Then we heard about Filson’s custom department from a post on Archival Clothing. We ordered a collar from them - there was maybe a $10 upcharge for the custom length - and she’s worn it ever since.

Somewhere along the way, my wife got annoyed with the clinking sounds the dogs’ tags made, so we replaced them with brass plaques. We got them from the internet for five or ten dollars each, and my friend (and cobbler) Raul attached them directly to the collars for us.

There are plenty of alternatives to Filson, of course. One of my favorite recommendations for folks who like Filson quality but want a lower price point is Duluth Pack, and they have a whole passel of dog items. LL Bean has a similarly large selection which are even cheaper.

I got my dogs’ bed from Sierra Trading Post, which usually has some good dog stuff as well. It’s made of Barbour oilcloth.

I’ve found that the key is to focus on products made for dogs with jobs to do - especially outdoor dogs. Those will be simpler, more masculine, and better-quality.

And if you might permit me a moment of preaching: get your dog chipped, so it can be returned if lost. Get your dog fixed, so it doesn’t make more dogs in a world with dogs that need homes. And don’t buy a companion dog from a breeder, adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue organization. My pups are rescues, and I’m happy they are every time I think of what a great life they have, and how they could have lived on the streets or been put down.

Anyway, Tom: you’ll get so much enjoyment from your new pal. Dogs really are your best friends.