- Neck Size: Measure the circumference of your dog’s neck at its widest point, usually at the base of the neck. The measuring tape should be snug but not tight.
- Chest Size: Measure the circumference of the chest at its widest point. This is often just behind the front legs, but may vary slightly depending on the breed.
- Back Length: Measure from the center of the dog’s shoulder blades (called the withers) to the base of the tail. Be sure to take this measurement when the dog is standing upright on all fours to get the most accurate measurement.
In order to get dog gear that fits your pooch comfortably, you’ll need to take some quick measurements before shopping for collars, harnesses and dog clothing. The chart above shows three of the most common measurements you’ll need in order to buy dog apparel. All you need to take these measurements is a flexible tailor’s tape, which should be available at most fabric and hobby stores. If you’re having trouble getting your dog to stand still long enough, you might try measuring when your pup is happily eating dinner (maybe even give him something extra-delicious as a distraction). Don’t forget to write down the measurements and save them in case you need to buy more dog gear later on. Of course, if your pup is still growing, you’ll probably need to re-measure.
In order to keep your pet safe when venturing outdoors, a leash, collar and/or harness are essential items. Not sure whether you should use a collar or harness with a leash? Below are a few pros and cons of each:
Dog Collar Pros
- Most collars are lightweight, durable and equipped to securely hold dog identification tags.
- Most dogs can wear a properly fitted collar 24 hours a day (i.e. you don’t have to put it on before a walk and take it off after).
- Many collars have high-visibility or reflective materials to make your pup more visible to motorists at night and during twilight hours.
- Basic dog collars are typically very affordable to replace when they wear out.
Dog Collar Cons
- Regular dog collars are not ideal for training.
- Using a dog collar to train and/or restrain a dog that pulls excessively can potentially cause neck trauma, windpipe constriction, increased eye pressure, skin abrasions and general discomfort. Some dog breeds are more prone to these problems than others.
Dog Harness Pros
- A dog harness tends to be a more effective training tool for many dogs, particularly puppies.
- Attaching a leash to your dog’s harness (instead of a collar) primarily distributes pulling pressure to the chest and torso, rather than the neck and throat. Therefore, using a harness is less likely to cause injuries.
- Unlike a collar, a dog harness is ideal for securing your dog in the car using a seatbelt clip.
Dog Harness Cons
- Some dogs particularly dislike the feeling of a harness and will become agitated when wearing one. However, most dogs will grow accustomed to wearing a harness over time.
- Unlike a collar, it’s not recommended to leave a dog harness on your dog all the time. Harnesses should be put on for trips outside or in the car, and removed when in the home or yard.
- Dog harnesses are typically more expensive than collars, although prices vary depending on the brand and type of harness.
Collar and Harness Tips
- Dog collars should be made of a light, durable material and be wide enough so that the collar doesn’t dig into your dog’s skin. A dog collar should fit snuggly enough so that it won’t become easily caught on branches or other objects. However, it shouldn’t be so tight that it constricts your dog’s breathing or swallowing. Generally, you should be able to easily slide two fingers in between your dog’s neck and collar to ensure a proper fit.
- Dogs should always wear a collar with identification tags (including your dog’s name, your address and/or your home phone number). If your dog ever gets out, this information will allow the person who finds your dog (or the local dog pound) to contact you. Many counties, cities and towns require dogs to be vaccinated for rabies and subsequently licensed. Failure to license your dog and also display that license tag on your dog’s collar may result in a fine. Contact your local government office or humane society for more info.
- Be sure to measure your dog’s neck size before buying a new collar. When choosing a harness, you’ll also need to measure your dog’s chest circumference. Most harnesses can be worn without removing your dog’s collar. Although you can leave your dog’s collar on all the time, it’s a good idea to remove your dog’s harness when not in use. Harnesses are more likely to become snagged or tangled.
There are many advantages to having a bed just for your four-legged companion. For starters, your pup will most likely be much more comfortable lying on a dog bed rather than on the hard floor. A dog bed provides extra cushioning, which helps take pressure of a dog’s bones and joints. This is especially important for older pets, dogs suffering from joint problems and dogs with arthritis. A dog bed also gives your pooch a piece of furniture to call his own, which means he should be less likely to jump on your couch or bed.
Choosing a dog bed size can be a little tricky. First, grab a measuring tape and get a rough idea of how much space your dog needs when lying down. One important thing to keep in mind is how your dog sleeps. Does he sleep curled up into a ball or sprawled out in a big heap? Obviously this will impact the bed size your dog needs. Generally, nesting beds with side bolsters help contain your dog a little better compared to flat and pillow-shaped beds. If you choose a bed with sides, it can be slightly smaller than a bed without sides. However, keep in mind that dog beds without sides are a little easier to clean. (Getting the cover on and off is easier). Still not sure? When in doubt, go with a slightly bigger size. In general, it’s best to be a little generous when choosing dog bed sizes, unless interior space is at a premium.
According to the Humane Society, all dogs have a natural instinct to seek a den, and this instinct is one reason why crate training remains such an effective technique. When crate training, it’s important that your dog feels comfortable and secure in his crate. Dog crates are also one of the best ways to keep your pet safe and secure when in the home or traveling. (More on this topic in the travel section). Most pet crates fall into one of three primary categories:
- Molded plastic crates are relatively lightweight and durable, but most don’t collapse for compact storage. Plastic crates can be a little harder to clean compared to collapsible crates with removable trays. However, plastic crates are usually very affordable.
- Collapsible metal crates are extremely durable and take up less room in storage when folded flat. Most have a removable plastic tray, which makes cleanup easy. However, metal dog crates are the heaviest option and tend to be more expensive than plastic crates.
- Fabric crates with mesh panels and a rigid frame are typically the lightest option, but also the least durable. These crates are ideal for dogs that have already been crate trained. If a dog really wants to get out, there is a good chance it will break out of a fabric crate fairly quickly. Because they’re less durable, fabric crates are usually best for travelling and short-term applications.
Once you’ve chosen the type of pet crate you plan to buy, size is the next most important consideration. A crate should have enough interior space for your pet to stand up and move around easily. The chart below from The Association of Professional Dog Trainers provides a good starting point for choosing a dog crate based on your dog’s weight. The chart also includes examples of popular dog breeds that usually fall within the recommended size ranges.
Dog Crate Size Chart
Dog Weight Crate Size Dog Breed Examples Under 24 lbs.
Under 30 lbs.
Chihuahua Under 30 lbs.
Under 38 lbs.
Cairn Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier Under 40 lbs.
Under 40 lbs.
Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound, Bull Terrier, Dachshund, Poodle 0-40 lbs.
American Staffordshire Terrier, Beagle, Brittany Spaniel, Chow Chow, Irish Terrier 40-60 lbs.
American Pit Bull Terrier, Australian Cattle Dog, Border Collie, Bull Terrier, Dalmatian 80-100 lbs.
Alaskan Malamute, American Bulldog, Boxer, Briard, Malinois 80-90 lbs.
Alaskan Malamute, Boxer, Briard, Dalmatian, Malinois Up to 100 lbs. 48x36” Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Greyhound, Irish Setter, Rottweiler 100-150 lbs.
Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Siberian Husky
Dog Coats and Vests
Although most canines develop a thick coat of fur in the winter months, many dogs still need additional protection when spending time outside in cold weather. Dog coats and dog vests are two popular types of pet apparel that can provide additional warmth and weather-resistant protection. For dry, chilly weather, a dog fleece or dog vest is an easy and affordable option. For wet or snowy weather, a water-repellent or waterproof dog jacket will offer better coverage, helping to keep your pet much drier and warmer. Before choosing a dog coat, you’ll need to take some basic measurements. Check out the first section of this guide for more details on how to measure your dog.
Although the pads on dogs’ feet are naturally tough and leathery, longer walks on rugged, rocky trails or icy, snowy terrain can take a toll on your pup’s feet. For hiking on very rough or cold terrain, dog boots provide just the right amount of extra protection. Dog boots are usually lightweight and may have adjustable straps for a secure fit. Depending on the brand, most are sized according to paw width. To size your dog’s feet, simply pick a paw and measure its widest point.
Keep in mind that many dogs won’t like the feel of dog boots the first few times they wear them, so give your dog time to grow accustomed to wearing new boots before you head out into the wilderness. When you first try them, consider putting one boot on your pup for a few minutes. There’s a good chance your dog will pull it off. Don’t worry and don’t scold your dog if he does. Next, try two dog boots for a few minutes. If your dog is still displeased, try playing a game to draw attention away from the footwear. Give your dog lots of encouragement. Eventually, try putting all the boots on your pup and immediately going for a short walk around the neighborhood. Reward your dog with a treat or toy for keeping them on. All dogs are different and some will adjust to wearing boots more quickly than others. Be persistent and positive, and your pup should warm up to the idea eventually.
If you enjoy hiking and exploring outside with your dog, why not share the gear load? With a dog backpack, your pooch can carry food, doggy bags, a collapsible water bowl and other essentials, saving space and weight in your pack. Dog backpacks from brands like Outward Hound and alcott are available in a range of sizes and styles to fit almost any breed. Some even double as a harness and include a leash attachment point.
High-Visibility Pet Gear
When you and your four-legged companion head outside for a walk during twilight hours or after sunset, visibility to motorists is very important for safety. Three popular ways to increase your dog’s visibility in low light conditions include:
- A dog collar made of reflective material, or a collar with reflective accents
- A high-visibility dog vest or dog jacket
- A bright LED dog light that clips onto a collar or harness
Although making your dog easier to spot is important, it’s also essential to make yourself more noticeable. Blinking lights and high-visibility clothing may not be super-stylish, but they can significantly improve your safety when it gets dark.
Hitting the road and adventuring with your pet can be a lot of fun. However, there are some things to consider before you travel with your dog in the car. For starters, it’s best for your dog to be in the back seat (if you own a sedan) or cargo bay (if you own an SUV, hatchback or minivan). Also, in order to prevent your pup from potentially climbing up into the front seat and distracting you (or worse, trying to crawl down near the pedals), it’s a very good idea to secure your dog in a crate or with a harness and seat belt clip.
If you choose to use a travel crate, just make sure it will fit in the cargo area of your car. Alternatively, you could install a dog barrier that mounts behind the back seat. If you have a sedan or other compact vehicle, you can buy a device that clips into your existing seat belt receiver and then clips to your dog’s harness. Be sure to secure your dog using a harness rather than a collar. If you happen to get into an accident or hit the brakes suddenly, a body harness will minimize the risk of a neck injury.
Dogs love exploring the great outdoors, too. Thinking about hitting the trail with your four-legged friend? Take a look at the handy infographic below for a quick reference on what to bring along. Also, be sure to check out our Hiking Guide for tips on hiking footwear, clothing, gear and planning.
Although many dogs are strong swimmers, it’s still a good idea to invest in a dog life jacket if you plan on taking your dog boating or sailing. Dog life jackets are designed specifically to provide additional flotation for canines of various sizes, from small to large breeds. Sizing your dog for a life jacket is the same as sizing for a dog coat. The primary measurements will be chest circumference and back length.
Just like life jackets designed for people, it’s important to put your dog’s life jacket on properly and securely before hitting the water. You’ll also want to clean your dog’s life jacket when it gets dirty, since mud and dirt can eventually cause premature wear. Don’t leave life vests sitting out in the sun, either, since UV rays will degrade the materials over time. Finally, dog life jackets should be retired if any of the straps start to fray or if holes begin to appear in the fabric. Never leave your dog unattended while wearing a life jacket.
Quick Tip: For boating or sailing, consider looking for a dog life jacket that has an integrated grab handle at the top. This feature will make it much easier to grab your dog and haul him back into the boat if he happens to go overboard.
All dogs deserve a few good toys to play with. Before you shop for dog toys, however, it’s important to understand the differences between various types of toys. As a dog owner, you’ll need to be aware of how your dog likes to play and choose toys accordingly. Most dog toys can be divided into two primary categories:
Non-Chewing Dog Toys
For dogs that like playing with toys but don’t chew on them excessively, most regular dog toys will be fine. These toys are available in the widest variety. Examples include stuffed animals, rope toys, pull toys, tennis balls and throwing disks. If your dog really likes to sit down and chew aggressively on things, only allow your dog to use non-chewing toys when closely supervised. If your dog starts to chew apart a toy and tries to eat the pieces, you’ll want to take it away quickly.
Unlike dog toys designed for playing, tugging and fetching, chew toys are designed specifically for chewing. Dog chew toys are made of durable materials that cannot be chewed apart easily, or they are made of materials that are intended to be chewed and swallowed safely (i.e. dog chews). Keep in mind that very aggressive chewers can sometimes still destroy and eat a synthetic dog chew toy, so it’s important to understand that not all chew toys are totally indestructible. If your dog is a large, powerful chewer, you may need to choose natural dog chews that are intended to be consumed instead of synthetic chew toys.