Are you overwhelmed at the thought of all the stuff you need to properly care for your dog?  Would you rather spend your hard earned money on reducing debt or splurging on human family members?  Or if you’d prefer to picture your home clear of dog stuff – don’t worry – dogs don’t really need much to be happy and healthy which is just as well because I have 6 dogs and plan on moving into a mobile tiny house next year! 

After thinking about what I would really need for my dogs once we downsized, I decided the essentials for a happy, health dog are:

  1. Food

The best quality dry dog food (aka ‘kibble’) you can budget for because this supports good health and behaviour.  No bowl required!  Try sprinkling your dog’s food on the lawn or patio for them to eat a piece at a time; or hide it in small piles around the house or yard for them to hunt down.  If your dog is a bit of a challenge to live with, keep their food in a bag in your pocket and they can earn it a few pieces at a time for good or at least improved behaviour – that way everyone wins!

All dogs love to chew.  Give them healthy chews like carrots and chunks of apple or melon so you don’t have to add extra things to your weekly shop and reduce food waste. 

  1. Water

Provide a large heavy bowl of fresh water daily.  Keep this in the shade to avoid overheating.  If your dog likes to play with their water, have a few bowls or buckets available so they aren’t at risk of dehydration, or give them a large ice cube to chew on and play with.

  1. Bedding

A raised bed for summer is all that’s needed, and you can pop a soft fluffy bed or blanket onto that for the colder nights.  Of course if you let your dog sleep on your bed or sofa like I do you won’t need these! 

How cool is this bunk style dog bed!
    How cool is this bunk
    style dog bed!

If your dog sleeps or spends most of their days outside, a kennel is advised to provide shelter from extreme weather conditions.  Make sure it is placed near the back door, facing away from the wind, and is under cover.  Kennels must be raised off the ground to stop the cold seeping in to the floor and bedding.

  1. Identification

In NSW whenever your dog leaves your property it must wear identification.  That could be a collar and tag with your dog’s name and your phone number, or you could buy a collar with those details embroidered on (see

Your dog must also be microchipped and registered through your local council. 

  1. Safety

A car harness is a legal requirement when your dog travels in a motor vehicle.  Alternatives are a travel crate that is seat belted in place (or permanently fixed in place if you have a ute), or a properly installed cargo barrier if you want your dog to travel in the rear of your vehicle.

The other safety tool is a standard 4ft leash.  In NSW your dog is required to be on leash when off your property unless in a designated off-leash area.

  1. Health & Hygiene

If you can afford it, invest in pet health insurance to cover emergencies and preventative medicine.  I have 6 dogs so premiums are prohibitive for me.  Instead I have a savings account that I regularly put a small amount into to cover emergency vet fees and annual vaccinations.

Flea & tick treatments, and intestinal worm treatments, can be bought at regular intervals or yearly.  Some websites where you can purchase these even offer a reminder service.

To keep your dog clean a dog shampoo/conditioner and at least one towel for drying after a monthly bath is also handy.  These can be avoided if you opt to have your dog regularly groomed professionally.  If your dog has long hair you may need a slicker brush for daily care.  If you have a short coat dog a pet mitt or soft bristle brush is enough for a weekly clean.

If you want to groom your dog but they are difficult please contact me at to arrange private training to teach your dog to accept grooming.  I’m available Mondays to Fridays between 11am and 8pm for appointments around Sydney.

  1. Toys

Invest in at least one rubber Kong or Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude chew toy.  You can feed your dog using these or play fetch with them.  Fill these toys with suitable left over human food or dog treats to encourage your dog to chew on them.


  1. You

The most important thing your dog needs is you.  Spend time playing with them each day.  Spend time being affectionate with them, set aside 10 minutes just for cuddle time – look into their eyes, talk to them softly, pat them gently.  Take them for a walk each day, if you have the time go for two walks.  Because dogs have lots of energy when they wake, take them for a walk in the morning and leave them at home happy and tired.  If your dog is difficult or unpleasant to walk please write to me now at to arrange private training so that walks are enjoyable for you both!

Include your dog in family outings.  If they are healthy and good with other dogs twice weekly visits to the dog park for doggy play will keep them sweet.  Because we all want a dog we can be proud of when in public make sure they know how to behave well by joining a class where they can learn what to do and practice too.  At Cheeky Pup! Dog Training we offer group classes for puppies and adolescent dogs up to 2 years old to teach obedience, manners, and games.  If your dog is more than 2 years old, or has any behaviour problems, we can teach them at your home.  Visit our website at for lots of information on our classes in the western suburbs of Sydney; or write to me now at if you prefer private training in the Sydney area.


Living the dream
                     Living the dream

Unlike humans, pups are not born able to pee and pooh without their lower abdomen being stimulated by a firm but gentle stoking or licking motion.  This is usually carried out by their mother, who will often swallow what the pup produces in order to keep the living area clean.

toileting on grass
     Aaah, that’s better!

Provide a potty area with the same feel underfoot as what your pup used when with the breeder, shelter or pet shop.  Most commonly used are grass and newspaper.  If you have shag rugs please put them away until your pup is reliably toilet trained – the texture is too similar to grass for most pups to resist.

Control of the bladder and bowel starts to pass to the pup shortly after they stop breast feeding and move onto mushy food.  However they will not have reliable control until about 6 months of age!  The sphincters, which release or hold back pee and pooh, are a kind of muscle whose
strength is built up slowly. 

Initially your pup will be lucky to get 3 seconds warning that they need to potty.  If they were resting or have little legs or are still learning the layout of your home, they probably won’t make it to the toilet area without your help.  This is why I always recommend you limit the amount of space in the home your pup can be in, or you provide a potty area in each room, or you keep your pup on harness and leash and keep the leash attached to you at all times so you notice when your pup needs to go – fidgeting, whining, pulling on the leash. 

improve this by covering all the floor with pee pads or newspaper

Improve this set up by covering the entire floorspace with pee pads or newspaper!

Most pups will wander into a corner area to potty, or sniff the ground while walking in a circle before squatting – these are your cues to quickly and calmly get your pup to the potty area.

Pups, and most adult dogs, will need to potty after waking up from an overnight sleep or a short nap.  They will also potty after drinking, and also after eating.  At these times take your pup to the toilet and leave them there until they are done, you may have to stay with them at first.  Be patient, you have temporarily distracted them from the job at hand it might take a while for them to relax enough to go.  Keep a bottle of water and a book for yourself near the potty space as you could be there for half an hour.  If your pup does not toilet at this time, take them inside and confine them for ten minutes to a play pen, with the floor of the pen entirely covered with newspaper or pee pads.  Once the time is up you can take them back outside to try again.  If they still do not go, repeat confinement.  Do not give your pup freedom to move about the house until you know they are empty!

TIP:  Make sure you have your dog on their potty space or outside on the grass when greeting visitors. 
 If they meet people at the front door and have an excited wee this could quickly become a habit.  
Try putting your pup on leash and take them out onto your front lawn to greet visitors, or better still 
put them in your backyard and have visitors meet them out there.

One simple way of helping to toilet train your pup is to only put their food down for up to 20 minutes and if they haven’t finished eating by then take what is left away.  Pups up to 4 months should ideally have 3 small meals a day, but as most people work away from home giving your pup a breakfast and dinner is fine but leave a stuffed Kong toy or dry biscuit bone or carrot for them to snack on during the day – they can chew on safely and may help prevent them chewing on furniture and plants. 

If you have an extra tiny pup please try and feed them 4 or more small meals a day, even if that means a very early breakfast, a small morning tea before you leave for the day, an afternoon snack when you return home, and then dinner or supper.  While I’ve called these meals by different names you only need to give your pup the same food at each of them – ideally a good quality dry food.

The other times when pups need to toilet include:

  • When they see a family member after a break, eg first thing in the morning, after school.
  • A visitor arrives.
  • If something exciting happens, eg a knock on the door for a delivery, the phone rings.
  • During or after playing with you or a toy (this includes training) – so do as much play as possible outside on a grassy area near where you want your pup to toilet.


pee pad

TIP:  Keep in mind that some pups will only use a pee pad once.  Others 
will pee in one spot and pooh in another - so put down several pee pads 
until their toileting habits become predictable.



Walking your cheeky pup…

A lot of people ask me about how to walk their pup, with added comments like ‘he just sits and will not move’, or, ‘she pulls into hedges all the time and keeps sniffing’.  Another question I’m starting to hear more of, ‘is it okay to walk my dog on a harness or should I just use their collar?’


Do not walk your puppy in a public area until they are fully vaccinated.  That means, three individual puppy vaccinations usually one month apart.   If you will be walking your dog of any age near dog parks or in an area where other dogs are common please I suggest you discuss with your vet about your dog have a minimum C4 vaccination as their third puppy vaccination or as their once-a-year top up.  C4 will help protect against:  parvovirus, hepatitis, distemper and bordatella/parainfluenza.  If your dog has only had a C3 vaccination your vet can vaccinate them against bordatella/parainfluenza by administering a quick sinus spray.

Once fully vaccinated

Once you’re dog is vaccinated and you want to start walking them keep in mind that the world is a new and scary place for your dog.  Let them set the pace and if they want to sniff, sit and look around allow that to happen.  Your dog needs to build up their stamina for a walk, but not until after they feel comfortable in the environment.  If you have a scaredy dog take your time on a short walk, which might mean walking 5 minutes in one direction and then turning around and going back home.  As they get better take some treats with you so you can encourage them to go a bit further.  If your dog is still reluctant to go out walking after a fortnight of short, gentle trips please contact an ethical and humane trainer for assistance in helping your dog.

Walk at a time when the temperature isn’t too extreme.  As summer approaches that means walking early in the morning before work (which has the added bonus of leaving your dog tired for at least the first few hours when they are home alone), and again in the cool evening.

Always take clean up bags with you.  There’s a $275 on the spot fine if you are caught not cleaning up after your dog.  You also give your neighbours reason to resent your dog and complain about all dogs out walking.  It also strangely gives tacit permission for the next person to not clean up after their dog, which means your dog might want to snack on someone else’s poop on your next walk.  Yuk.

Please do not run with your dog until they are fully grown or at least 12 months old.  Young dogs have soft bones and growth plates that don’t fuse together until they are at least 12 months old, and usually the larger the breed the later this occurs. 


Dog collars are for carrying your dog’s identification!  All dogs in New South Wales must by law, whenever they are off your private property, wear a collar that exhibits the dog’s name and the owner’s best contact telephone number.

I recommend walking all dogs using a harness, and preferably a front-clip harness.  

Front-clip harnesses will not pinch on nerves or muscles like some other so-called stop-pulling harnesses.  Front-clip harnesses will greatly reduce the amount of pressure your dog puts on the harness and leash, and therefore your arm/shoulder/back.

Keep in mind that walking your dog on car-harness, with the leash attaching to the harness over their back, actually encourages them to pull away from you!

Madison the Aussie Shepherd in Canine Kindy
Madison the Aussie Shepherd wearing a front-clip harness

What to avoid and why

Check chains can cause neurological changes and nerve related lameness in the front limbs, as well as damage to a dog’s wind pipe, food pipe, and thyroid glands.

  • Prong collars are illegal in Australia. It is even illegal, under the Customs Act, to import them into the country. 
  • Citronella collars may cause unwanted side effects, particularly of a behavioural nature, ie aggression towards the barking trigger.
  • Electric shock collars are also illegal in New South Wales. If you use an electric shock collar on your dog be aware there is a $10,000 fine and a 12 month prison sentence in your future (even if it’s not turned on). The exception to this is if the collar is part of an electric fence containment system that is no less than 1.5 metres high (so no in-ground containment system).

Chew on this…

Puppies are very inquisitive and their way of finding out about things includes chewing on them.   So if you want to protect your furniture and your feet, offer your pup a healthy fresh carrot to chew on instead.  Not all pups will take to carrots but it’s so worth trying, what’s the worst that can happen?  You’ll have to bin 1 carrot (better still, compost if you can).

If your pup is reluctant to try it out, peel a carrot and nibble on it yourself first.  It’s the old “I’ll have what she’s having” trick.

Carrots can be room temperature or straight from the fridge; in sticks, rounds or whole.

And if your pup really doesn’t want to chew on a carrot, try offering other healthy things instead like pieces of apple, frozen peeled bananas, ice cubes (plain, flavoured, or with hidden treats inside), and for little pups frozen peas.  If you like to juice fruits and veg at home, keep some of the left over pulp and freeze that for your dog to chew on … but don’t complain if they refuse anything with kale in it ; )


PS:  If they are still chewing on your shoes, put them away out of reach.  Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

Dharma enjoying a cold carrot stick on a hot day
Dharma enjoying a cold carrot stick on a hot day