Idea: Minimalist Dog Ownership

How many things do we need to be happy and live well?

For people the number can vary depending on each individual, some people are hoarders that have clutter in every house corner, some people have a decent amount of stuff and some others are extreme minimalists. However, regarding dogs, the amount of stuff needed is very little.

For wild dogs, there are six things essential to their “happiness” and survival. Water, food, mating, a den, a pack and a territory.

For the domestic dog, the six essentials remain but, at the same time, his situation is different from his wild counterpart.

The domestic dog, in general, has plenty of predictable food and water, he has a den, the owner’s house and car that, consequently, also become the dog’s territory. The owner is the dog’s pack and, regarding mating, the dog still has this natural need but, in many cases, it is unwanted by the owner. Because of this reason, it makes sense for the dog to be neutered or spayed in order to not cause unnecessary suffering to the dog and unwanted dogs.

Dogs per se have not that many physical material needs in order to be happy, however, some dog owners feel the urge to constantly buy a lot of unnecessary stuff for their dogs, and I am guilty of that as well.

I personally love going to the pet shop and thinking what my dog needs.

He is obsessed with playing fetch and, therefore, every fetch toy always catch my eyes or, maybe while passing by the bed section, I start thinking he may need a new bed or a new collar or a new lead or whatever item the creative mind of the pet business has created to make me think: “My dog needs that”.

But will this stuff make me or my dog happier? Honestly, I don’t think a fetch cannon would make playing fetch more fun to my dog. He is capable of inviting me to play even with a wine cork or a bottle lid.

As long as I throw something that he can fetch back, he is happy and that is why an ordinary tennis ball does the job perfectly. Certain dog toys are more of toys for the owner.

In 2017 pet owners spent collectively around 69 billions of dollars in the US alone, you can imagine how big the number can get if counted worldwide.

Anyway, I am not here to tell you what you should or should not buy for your dog or what to do with your money, feel free to spoil her with the latest gadget as long as it is safe and it maintains the dog’s dignity.

Whatever you decide, make sure to provide the dog with the essentials for her to live comfortably and happy with you. 

The permanent essentials for your dog are:

1) A collar and a lead.

A collar is a dog’s uniform, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, an ordinary leather collar will be fine. Alternatively, you can get a synthetic or a fabric type. The problem with the latest is to keep it clean. Dogs do not have that much of a concern to stay clean as some of us do.

I personally don’t like the clip type, they are very easy to put on and take off but, by being adjustable, they tend to get too loose to the point that the dog can slip her head through.

If you want to keep the collar clean and also to make your dog more comfortable while indoor, take it off when the dog is at home and put it on only when going out or when the dog is in the garden.

The lead must be of a length that is not too short that the dog will not be able to move around but, at the same time, not too long that you lose control over the dog. The length depends on the size of the dog, however, consider that the dog must be able to sniff around during the walk but not be able to go more than a meter away from you.

Avoid extensible or super long leads at all cost, unless you are using them to train your dog. If you cannot trust your dog off the lead, she shouldn’t stay far from you. Also, and I have seen many people doing that, if you use the extensible lead while walking your dog on the pavement, keep the lead locked short. If your dog is five-six meters away from you and she decides to cross the busy road nothing can stop your dog from crossing the street. And remember, it is called ‘lead’ because that helps you to lead your dog during the walk, not the other way around.

Make sure that both collar and lead are strong enough for your dog, a large size dog can easily break the lead made with a very fine chain.

2) Microchip and tag with your telephone number.

Whether it is required by law or not in your country, your dog must have a microchip with your contact details.

The tag on his collar can be removed or lost, and in the event of you losing your dog, without your contact details, people cannot return your dog.

On the other hand, if your dog has a microchip, anyone that finds your dog can take him to the first veterinary clinic to scan the chip and contact you.

Anyway, also put a dog tag with your number so people can call you. If you have lost your dog just now chances are that you don’t need to go far to get him back.

3) Two bowls.

You only need two of them: one for water and one for food and your dog doesn’t care what they look like or what material they are made of. As long as water is always available and you feed the dog regularly, she will be pleased.

4) A dog bed.

This is an important item, especially if you prefer your dog to stay off the sofa or your bed. Also, if you are a minimalist you want the furniture in your house to last long so you don’t have to buy a new sofa in case your dog likes to dig.

Make sure you provide a comfortable bed of the appropriate size and place it in a warm spot during winter and in a cool place away from direct sunlight during summer. In general, when not out for a walk or actively engaged by the owner into doing something, dogs spend most of their time sleeping. Make sure the place where they spend most of their time is the most comfortable.

5) Grooming tools.

These tools depend on your dog’s requirements, a Whippet owner will definitely need less grooming tools than a Husky owner.

Make sure you have the essential tools to keep your dog in good and clean condition. Also, grooming is an occasion to check your dog for parasites such as fleas and ticks.

6) One or few toys.

Dog toys don’t need to be expensive high-tech items. Keep in mind that your dog will eventually break her toys.

A cheap tennis ball (A real one, designed to play tennis. The ones created for dogs will break “just by looking at them”) or a big piece of rope will be fine and fun to her.

For the time when your dog has to be alone at home, the best thing for your dog is any Kong style toy type. This will keep her busy for hours and mentally drain her while you are away.

And last but not least, what your dog needs the most regarding toys and general life, it’s you to be present and play with him.
No toy will entertain your dog forever, provide your dog with his need of having a group, migrate with him on daily walks discovering the world outside, provide your dog with direction on how to behave.

You do not need an enormous amount of stuff for your dog, he needs an owner that can satisfy his basic canine needs, do not submerge your dog with stuff, submerge him with lots of fun and positive experience together.

You have chosen to get a dog and, therefore, you are responsible for his or her well-being.


I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you like to learn more, please, feel free to subscribe to this blog.

Also, if you like the topic of dogs, please check my book ‘Before You Get A Dog’ by Simone Burani. You will find the essential knowledge written in simple language to have a great time with your pet.

Best wishes,

Simone Burani.