Zero Waste Dog Care

Zero Waste Dog Care

Going zero waste with pets is possible but not often easy. As with our own habits, we have to accept there's always going to be a certain level of unavoidable waste. It is possible to make our choices a little more sustainable though. Having a dog companion is very new to me as my pup came into my life only recently. Since then I've been exploring sustainable ways to care for him, from the food he eats to the toys he plays with. I'm sharing everything I've learned about low waste dog care so far.

Low Waste Dog Essentials

When it comes to the essentials like a leash, collar, harness, crate, bowls, and beds: buy with longevity and necessity in mind. Choose products made from durable and sustainable materials, like metal, ceramic, or bamboo. To reduce the impact of my purchases, I tried to use what I already had, looked for second-hand alternatives, and bought as many items as I could from UK-based independent brands.

If you have a puppy, there's a few things worth holding off on purchasing until you're certain your pup needs or likes them. I skipped almost all puppy-specific essentials to avoid replacing them later on. This won't be practical or even possible for some breeds. I didn't use puppy pads either, which is a challenge but far less wasteful! I recommend the washable kind if you must have them. I held off on buying a dog bed too until I was sure he'd use one. This Scruffs Kensington Mattress (gifted) made from recycled materials is great for new puppies and large enough to see most breeds through to adulthood. You spend a lot of time on the floor with a new puppy and having a dog bed big enough for you both is a lifesaver!

To avoid making unnecessary purchases, I repurposed ramekins as bowls, made a modular crate from old C&C panels, and used old towels and linen sheets for bedding. But there were a few essentials I had to buy new such as a reflective adjustable harness and lead with ENVIETAGS ID tags and a TagLock. Once my pup was bigger and I knew his size, I switched his harness out for one that fit him better and came highly recommended for his breed: the Rabbitgoo No-Pull Harness (gifted). It's fully adjustable with thick padding made from breathable air mesh making it more comfortable for your companion to wear. Being pull-on is the biggest feature for me, especially having a small breed that won't step into a harness. It also has reflective strips and is weather-proof so you know your dog will be safe outdoors.

Zero Waste Dog Care

Low Waste Dog Food

When it comes to feeding your dog there are a few options. Wet, dry, raw, or homemade - there's a lot to consider and plenty of greenwashing to unpick! The All About Dog Food website is an excellent tool for finding the healthiest food for your dog.

If you're buying wet dog food, choose tins not pouches. Typically they contain only one or two servings and they're not recyclable, which means a lot of waste going into your bin. Dry dog food has a few more options to consider. Packaging-free bulk dry kibble might be a solution for you. Although you most likely won't have many, if any, options to choose from. If your dog isn't picky and doesn't mind switching their diet up, go for it. This isn't an option for me so I've been looking for at other low waste alternatives.

Since zero waste stores decant large bags into their dispensers, you could buy the large bag yourself. Giving you more choice about the brand you support. This can be expensive and requires space to store it. Another option is to make your own dog food. This is a choice I'm hesitant to discuss and not one I recommend. I'm not convinced it's in a dog's best interests.

Feeding your dog prime cuts of meat is the least sustainable option. A less wasteful, more eco-friendly alternative is to avoid human-grade ingredients. Cheap cuts that are usually wasted make nutritious yet affordable dog food. They don't put extra pressure on the global food system either, if a raw diet is the route you want to take.

My solution has been to seek out eco-conscious pet companies. These companies use ingredients with a low carbon footprint. Providing plastic-free packaging, and bulk buy options. I decided to go with Yora Insect Protein Food and opt for plant-based treats. They have formulas for puppies right through to seniors with the option of buying in bulk too. I've since switched to Omni; read more about sustainable plant-based dog food.

Here are a few low waste sustainable dog food brands to consider:

Low Waste Dog Treats

Whether you buy them or make them, there are countless options when it comes to dog treats. Raw fruits and vegetables are a great choice for our companions. Carrots, broccoli, celery, green beans, and sweet potatoes are tasty treats. As are banana, pears, apple, mango, oranges, peach, and strawberries. You could also bake some homemade dog treats. Oats, peanut butter, and coconut oil are the base for simple dog snacks.

If you don't want to make your own or need high value treats for training, there are plenty of options. Unfortunately they do come in packaging, sometimes it's compostable, sometimes it's recyclable plastic.

Zero Waste Dog Care

Low Waste Dog Toys

Lots of toys can be made from the contents of your recycling bin and craft drawer. Toilet tubes, boxes, tissue paper, twine. They won't be very durable or even hold your dog's attention but they'll put some waste to good use before it heads off to be recycled. Creating a 'busy box' enrichment toy for your dog from recyclable materials is one of the easiest to create and most fun toys a dog can play with.

When it comes to buying dog toys, don't purchase too many until you know what you dog really loves playing with. You'll want to find durable options too. The kind that won't get chewed up and destroyed within a few hours. It's better to go for reliable options even if they're made from less than ideal materials. Buying dozens of low waste toys only for them to end up in the bin isn't very sustainable. I held off on buying anything specific until I knew the kind of toys my puppy liked to play with.

There are lots of eco-friendly dog toys available, here's a few brands to try:

Buying second-hand baby toys is an affordable, low waste option. They have stricter safety standards, and if you pick the right ones they are perfectly safe to give to your dog. Avoid hard plastics that can shatter, and rubber not designed for dog teeth. Stick with plush toys instead. As with anything you give to your companion, don't leave them unattended with it.

I bought a few rope toys for my puppy that could be used as stuffing once they were shredded! Then, when I'd figured out he loves soft crinkly things, playing fetch, and nose work, I purchased toys with that in mind. I'll be hitting up the charity shops for suitable second-hand toys once they're back open.

Low Waste Dog Grooming

It's pretty uncommon to find dog shampoo in bulk stores. So one way to reduce plastic waste would be to buy the largest bottle you can. A quick search brings up a few options although there's not much information on their ingredients or sustainability. It might be a good option for short haired dogs but for long haired breeds, you might need something more specific.

I decided to prioritise supporting a vegan-friendly brand that uses natural ingredients and tells you exactly what they are. Pro Pooch makes their dog shampoo in the UK, doesn't test on animals, uses natural ingredients, and formulates their products for sensitive coats and skin. The shampoo leaves my puppy's fur super soft and the conditioning spray helps keep his long coat tangle-free.

For any long-haired dog keepers, you'll need a comb or brush. I opted for a Pet Teezer, specifically the Small Deshedding Brush. I have a Tangle Teezer and love it. It's made of plastic but it's durable, effective, and affordable. You might be able to get away with a stainless steel comb—or nothing at all!

Waste Disposal: Compost Bins and Other Options

Biodegradable and compostable dog poo bags sound great until you realise most of them can't be added to your home compost, you'll need a separate dog compost pile. When you throw them in with general waste they won't decompose because nothing can ever reliably biodegrade in a landfill. Biodegradation only happens in an oxygen-filled environment and the landfill is oxygen-free.

Reducing the waste we create is worth it even if we never reach zero. I'm keen on switching to a more eco-friendly option regardless. I've been looking for bags made from oxo-biodegradable plant materials meaning less plastic and a chance that they'll actually break down even in landfill (however slim that might be!)

These brands claim their bags are 'compostable and biodegradable'. While that's true, it's not as straightforward as it sounds. They're still a better option than generic supermarket brands. I've found the bags made from plant materials are a lot more expensive. But there are affordable eco-friendly options too. Beco are great value, I found 3 months worth of bags for £3 with an extra 10% off if you subscribe.

Options include:

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