Bringing home a new puppy is exciting but can feel a bit daunting, especially for new puppy parents. A little advanced preparation to ensure all the essentials are in place, however, can make for a smooth and enjoyable homecoming.
Below you’ll find a list of must-haves to help you welcome your new puppy into your home and family.
1. Safe Places to Play and Sleep
Dog crates and playpens offer pups a secure space to rest and play.
“Puppies need places where they can be safely confined until they learn their house manners, which may not be for more than a year,” says Barbara Davis, CPDT-KA, CDBC, of BADDogsInc Family Dog Training & Behavior in Corona, California.
Plus, it’s easier to keep your new puppy from chewing and peeing inappropriately.
A common misconception is that these secure places must be large to be effective, but “your pup’s crate only needs to be big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around,” Davis says. “You can usually purchase a crate big enough to accommodate your pup’s adult size and use the provided dividers to reduce its interior size to make it more pup-appropriate.”
For example, Frisco’s Fold & Carry dog crate comes with a divider so the unit can grow with your puppy.
“Exercise pens are bigger, similar to playpens for kids, and give your pup a place to play and run around safely while you’re busy doing other things,” Davis says.
2. A Supply of Healthy Food and Treats
Choosing the right dog food shouldn’t be a decision made at the supermarket on the way home with your new puppy, Davis says.
“Dog nutrition is at least as complex as human nutrition, and the spectrum of choices is huge,” she says. “I advise folks to buy the highest quality food you can afford, which will contribute so much to helping your pup grow well and strong.”
Since quality and price do not always equate, be sure to ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
Alana Stevenson, a certified animal behavior specialist and dog trainer in the Boston, Massachusetts area, cautions pet parents to avoid underfeeding puppies as they usually need at least three meals a day.
“Puppies should eat when they are hungry and until satisfied,” she says.
3. A Sturdy Collar and Leash
The Kennel Club, a UK-based organized that registers purebred and crossbred dogs, recommends that you choose a collar and leash sized appropriately for the breed and age of your pup. An adjustable dog collar is best at this stage since your puppy will grow quickly.
Remember to regularly examine the collar for condition and fit. You should be able to slip two fingers underneath the collar but not so loose that it can slip over a puppy’s head, the Kennel Club recommends.
As with the collar, the Kennel Club recommends choosing a leash that complements your pup’s size. According to the organization, rope leads are strong and comfortable on your hands, chain leads work well for puppies who like to chew or carry the lead in their mouths, and traditional leather leads must be oiled or saddle soaped to be kept clean and supple.
Pay attention to the catch or clip for wear and tear, the Kennel Club warns. Find out more information about the proper fit of pet collars and leashes here.
4. ID Tags
The ability to identify your puppy is a must, so an easy-to-read identification tag with your puppy’s name, your family name and your contact information is crucial. Don’t be fooled into thinking your dog doesn’t need identification because he’s an “indoor dog;” if your dog gets lost accidentally, you want a speedy reunion and ID tags help.
A 2011 study, led by Emily Weiss of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, concluded that ID tagging is an effective method for potentially decreasing the chances that stray dogs will end up in a shelter and instead make their way home.
5. Food and Water Bowls
“Basic equipment like food and water bowls are all necessities from the get-go,” Davis says. Non-slip bowls minimize spills and some veterinarians recommend an elevated dog bowl to give your puppy more comfort when eating.
6. Play Toys and Chew Toys
Puppies are intelligent and curious. Although they sleep a lot, Davis says that when they’re awake, it’s time to explore and investigate. To keep your pup mentally stimulated, provide him with a variety of dog toys that incorporate all kinds of textures, sounds and shapes.
“These early interactions and experiences can make all the difference in getting your pup off to a great start,” Davis says.
Since puppies start chewing right after weaning, which intensifies during teething time, Davis says dog chew toys are a must.
“Chewing may continue throughout a dog’s life, so [get] your pup to appreciate appropriate chew things early,” she says.
Check out these articles to find the best KONG for your dog and to know more about what bully sticks are and if they’re safe for puppies.
7. Comfort Toys
It’s common for new puppies to struggle the first few nights in a new home. On top of being in a new environment, they might be missing their siblings. It can be a difficult transition, Davis says.
“Comfort toys, like [Smart Pet Love’s] Snuggle Puppy, usually contain an electronic device that simulates the sound and feel of a heartbeat,” she says, “as well as a small heat pack that provides a source of warming that mimics the closeness of the littermates he’s left behind.”
8. Toy Box
Maintain order and reduce dog-toy clutter with a large and shallow dog toy storage bin, Stevenson recommends.
“Your puppy should have easy access to toys and the bin in an obvious location, especially where people hang out with the puppy,” she says. “This prevents the puppy from chewing on unwanted items and directs him to chewing on his toys only.”
9. Patience and a Plan
While your puppy might seem subdued and mellow for the first few days, your puppy’s true personality will show soon.
“Puppies are full of energy and can be quite a handful,” Stevenson says. “They play-bite, chew and will pee in the house until they are house-trained. Realize that some of it is development and some behaviors, such as attacking your legs and chewing on your hands, will decrease—if you handle it humanely and correctly.”
That’s why every new puppy parent needs a training plan.
“Whether you work with a trainer or not—and I absolutely recommend finding a great trainer—your pup is an intelligent and inquisitive creature who will need a steady stream of mental stimulation throughout his life,” Davis says. “Part of this can be satisfied by toys and play, but nothing beats learning new things, having interesting new experiences and having puzzles to solve. Remember, if you don’t give the dog something to think about, he’ll certainly think up something on his own.”
Some dog trainers, behaviorists and pet product retailers offer classes for prospective dog parents that go over training and gear essentials. Seriously consider attending one of these classes before bringing home a new puppy.
“If done right, there’s no puppy in attendance because you’ve chosen to spend the time getting ready for your new arrival, instead of worrying about it after the fact,” Davis.
What can you expect to learn from these preparation classes? Participants usually learn how to plan for the arrival of your new canine companion properly, as well as how to set the stage for a great beginning to your new life together, she says.