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Car seats among products your dog needs

There are more useless, overpriced products cluttering the pet market than there is snow in Washington this week. But as Beltway residents turn snow into snow angels, it seems a good time to highlight some worthy pet products — products that belong in the home and not in the pet product cemetery.

Canine car seats or crates: This may seem absurd to some, as dogs have been hopping into the backs of pickup trucks since Henry Ford unveiled the first factory-assembled pickup in 1925 — with a pricetag of $281. Clearly, times have changed. There are now more vehicles, moving at higher speeds, traveling for longer distances, on vastly more complex roads, not to mention highways. And that's not all that's changed. Most cities and many towns have passed laws or ordinances prohibiting animals from riding unrestricted in open beds. This is for the safety of the pet, as well as other motorists. Pets jumping or falling out of truck beds or car windows force oncoming drivers to swerve and possibly cause an accident. Car seats for dogs are as important as car seats for kids.

Pet-alert decals for home windows: I don't know what genius came up with this simple idea, but it's a winner. Pet owners can affix Pet Alert decals to a prominent window or glass door of their home. These bright red and white stickers include a place for the owner to fill in the details — number of pets, type of pet and even your pet's name. Emergency units responding to a call to your residence can determine whether there is anyone inside who might need rescuing. And the decals serve as potential deterrents to burglars and other ne'er-do-wells. Pet Alert decals can be ordered online, found in some pet supply stores or may even be available through your local fire department.

Microchip technology: Whoever says technology causes more harm than good has never lost a dog. About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip carrying an ID number is implanted into the animal by a vet using a hypodermic needle. The procedure is considered about as painful as a vaccination shot, and costs range from $25 to $65 — far less than the cost of printing fliers and offering rewards should your dog go missing. The next step is to register your dog with an agency. Agency fees vary, but the chip is useless if your pet is not registered. The agency records the pet's chip ID number, along with the correlating contact information for you and your vet. Most veterinarians and shelters are equipped with scanners that can read these chips, and that's how some 1,400 lost pets are reunited with their owners every day. Collars with tags are important, too, but they sometimes disappear.

Products that improve visibility: Fluorescent leashes and collars may appear gaudy in the light of day, but they look downright smart when walking a dog late at night. And another useful tool for walking your dog in the dark is a flashlight.

I don't typically pitch products, but this one earns an exception. I live in a rural area where there's no such thing as a streetlight for miles in any direction. Come sundown, though, I still have to walk the dogs. So when I heard about the Rogue dual-output LED flashlight from Icon, I wanted to try it out. Made of aluminum, it's as light as a cell phone and small enough to slip into a pocket. It's designed for the outdoors and feels practically indestructible. But what won me over is the LED light and custom grip — it's so bright and easy to handle that I no longer stumble around in the dark trying to keep up with three dogs blessed with night-vision.

While there are myriad pet products deserving of an immediate headstone in the pet product cemetery, each of these stands out as a worthy investment for pet owners.

Woof!

Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to dearuncle.gazette@unclematty.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.