Everything You Need for Your New Best Friend
Your New Puppy Checklist: Everything You Need for Your New Best Friend
By Caroline Golon
What’s better than a puppy? Soft little bellies, frantically wagging tails, puppy breath. Sigh. Puppies may be adorable, but these little furry balls of lovin’ require quite a bit of gear to keep them safe, happy, and thriving. Here is a new puppy checklist to get you started.
Food and Treats
Puppies eat… a lot! And they should eat a high-quality food specially formulated for puppies because puppy food has the energy and nutrients that your quickly growing BFF needs. Check with your puppy’s breeder or shelter/rescue service to find out what your pup has been eating. If you decide you want to change to a different brand, make the transition gradually to avoid upsetting your pup’s stomach. Over the course of about 7 to 10 days, mix an increasing amount of the new food with the old food. Start with 75 percent old and 25 percent new for three days; 50 percent old and 50 percent new for three days; 25 percent old and 75 percent new for three days and then 100 percent new.
Puppies love treats, too! Treats are an effective and helpful tool when it comes to training. They go a long way when it comes to making learning new things fun and rewarding for your pup. Because you will probably be treating a lot, make sure to choose small, low-calorie varieties so you can reward your puppy often.
Of course, you’ll also need food and water bowls. No need to get fancy in this arena. You can look for bowls with rubber on the bottom or place a mat under bowls to keep them from slipping.
While it’s true that puppies play so hard they tend to pass out just about anywhere, you’ll want to make sure your puppy has his own bed. There are many options to choose from based on your dog’s size and preference. Since puppies love to chew and tear things up, their bedding is often a victim. If your pup turns out to be a bed-destroyer, consider chew-proof bedding or simply a crate mat until he grows up a bit and becomes more responsible with his things. This goes for the bedding inside his crate as well.
Puppies need plenty of playtime. Luckily, there is no shortage of toy options for puppies and dogs. Try a few different types of toys until you learn what type of activities your puppy prefers. Is it fetch? Tug? Chew? All of the above? When choosing a toy, try to find options that are appropriately sized for your puppy’s small mouth. And always supervise when your puppy is playing with a toy. It’s easy for a puppy to chew off a piece of a plush, rope or even rubber toy and swallow it so be extra vigilant during playtime.
Chew toys are especially important for puppies. Chewing and mouthing is how puppies explore their world. On top of that, puppies begin to teeth at about 12 to 14 weeks old, and chewing is how they relieve the discomfort. To protect your puppy, your limbs and your home, make sure you have chew toys on hand to redirect your puppy if he begins chewing on something you don’t want him to, such as your shoes or the coffee table. Particularly enthusiastic chewers can whittle a toy down pretty quickly so if chew toys get too small, take them away so your puppy doesn’t choke.
Crates, gates, and playpens, oh my! Keeping your puppy contained is imperative to keeping him—and your belongings—safe. Puppies can get into all sorts of trouble, even if you carefully puppy proof your home, so it’s important to make sure he is comfortably contained when he’s not under your direct supervision.
Crates are great for a variety of reasons. First of all, they offer a safe place for your pup to go when you aren’t around to watch him. Second, a crate is an extremely effective tool during potty training. Most dogs instinctively won’t mess where they sleep, so putting them in a crate when you aren’t around is a proven way to teach them how to hold it until you are able to go outside. Remember though, puppies need to go out frequently, so don’t make him wait in his crate too long or desperation will win out over instinct. Finally, many dogs love their crates because it becomes their own special sanctuary where they can go when they are tired or anxious. Be sure to choose a crate that is big enough for your pup to stand up, turn around, and sleep in comfortably, but not so big that he can find a corner to do his business in. Some manufacturers make crates with dividers you can remove as your pup gets bigger. Invest in a crate mat to keep your pet comfy (if your pup is a bedding chewer, you might need to forgo the mat or experiment with different types until you find one he isn’t interested in chewing).
Pet gates are another useful tool to keep your pup from exploring your home, eating the cat’s food, chewing on extension cords, or even leaving a little surprise pile of poop somewhere. There are plenty of gate options, some that are free standing and others you can pressure mount or screw into doorways.
Just like for babies, puppy playpens keep your pup in the middle of the action while keeping him contained and safe where you can see him. This is a good option if you don’t have a specific room or area you can easily gate off.
Puppyhood includes lots of training. As you potty train your pup, you can decide if you’d like to try puppy pads. Some potty training methods start by training your puppy to use a pad and then eventually move outside, while others recommend training your dog to go outside right from the start. Regardless, having puppy pads on hand is a good idea. They can be used in the playpen, crate, or other areas where your pup might have an accident.
You may also be interested in a clicker for clicker training, a method of training where each time the puppy performs the desired action, he receives a click immediately right before he gets a treat. This way, he associates the sound of a click with doing a good job and understands what specific action he performed to earn the reward. Eventually, the clicking noise becomes the reward. Many trainers love this method.
As mentioned above, you’ll need lots of treats for all the great training you’ll be doing with your puppy. Get small, low-calorie treats for most of the training and a few larger treats for extra special rewards.
Getting your pup used to grooming early on is a great idea, so add some puppy-appropriate grooming supplies to your new puppy shopping checklist. Regular brushing with a soft grooming brush can help your pup be comfortable being touched all over his body. You might consider nail clippers. If you haven’t clipped a dog’s nails before, consult with your vet to show you how. Go slow and reward your puppy frequently throughout the process.
Dog shampoo. Eventually your pup is going to need to be bathed. Never use human shampoo on your dog of any age, as they can be too harsh for your dog’s skin. Instead choose a gentle, natural dog-specific shampoo.
Finally, flea and tick prevention is an important aspect of dog ownership. Most veterinarians do not recommend flea and tick prevention medication for young puppies. Talk with your veterinarian during your puppy’s initial check up to determine the best course of prevention for your little one. Heartworm prevention is another topic you’ll want to discuss with your pup’s vet and she will tell you at what age you should begin giving your puppy heartworm prevention medication (usually around 7 months).
Your puppy will need a collar and a leash right away. Did you know that puppies don’t automatically know how to walk on a leash? This is something you’ll need to teach him to do! Start with a small nylon collar and thin leash. As your puppy grows, you’ll want to continually adjust the collar and eventually upgrade to larger ones. The collar should be snug enough so your puppy doesn’t slip out of it but not too tight. For a secure, comfortable fit, you should be able to fit two fingers underneath the collar. Once your pup gets stronger, you’ll want to invest in a heavier leash as well (especially since puppies often chew through them)!
And don’t forget ID tags. Even if your pup is microchipped, you should still have an ID tag with his name, your name, your address, and phone number. This will make it easy for someone to contact you should the unthinkable happen and your puppy gets lost.
Let’s face it, puppies are messy! While they are bound to have accidents, you can help keep your house and yard (relatively) clean with a few handy tools.
For starters, stock up on poop bags. You can choose from scented, unscented, biodegradable, and plenty of colors and designs. Regardless of what style you choose, just make sure you have lots of them. Puppies poop—a lot!
No matter how good you are about getting your puppy outside to potty, it’s inevitable that your puppy will mess in the house. Invest in cleaning supplies and be prepared for accidents, mud, and other unexpected messes. Choose non-toxic cleaning solutions so if your sweet little pup happens to get a lick of it—or walk in a freshly cleaned area and then lick his toe pads—he won’t get sick. Old towels are helpful to have around, too.
It’s true that puppies can be a lot of work but they are so worth it! By knowing what to expect and preparing yourself with the right supplies, you and your puppy can be ready for a lifetime of fun, love, and companionship.