Bringing a new puppy into your home will change your life forever. Puppies are definitely a lot of work, but they also bring plenty of joy to your world. Whether you are getting your first puppy or just need a refresher course, here’s what you’ll need to know to get your puppy on the right track to adulthood.
- Collar & leash
Your puppy is new to “wearing” things, so when picking out a collar or harness, choose an adjustable nylon type with a two-piece buckle. The collar should fit snugly so it won’t slip off, but should not be too tight; you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and the pup’s neck. As your pup gets older, you can expect to buy several collars as she outgrows them.
The leash, which attaches to the collar, gives you control during walks or obedience training. Keep in mind that your first few walks are going to be pretty interesting since most puppies have no idea what a leash is or why it’s attached to them.
The leash should be strong and well made, as should the hardware that links the leash to the collar. For your comfort, the leash should also have a loop that is easy to grip. Plan to use a shorter 4-foot leash with your puppy at first; when you enroll in obedience training, you’ll use longer leashes.
- Crates and containment
A must for any puppy owner, crates and containment devices keep your new pal in a safe, confined area where you can monitor and housetrain him. You will need a dog crate or carrier, perhaps an exercise pen, playpen, or gate when you bring your pup home.
When choosing a crate or carrier, make sure that your pup can stand up, lie down, turn around, and stretch inside. Though dogs prefer to have a close-in den-like space, they also need room — but not too much — to feel comfortable. If you are unable to keep a watchful eye on your puppy, a pen or some baby gates can help to keep him corralled.
- Dog bed
The first night your puppy comes home, he’ll need a comfy bed to lay his head. While you’re housetraining him, you will have him sleep in his crate or kennel. After your puppy is housetrained and graduates from her crate to a real dog bed, you can choose from a wide range of pillows, cushions, dog-sized couches, and even memory-foam mattresses.
- Food and water bowls
You may think a dog bowl is a dog bowl, but all are not equal. Different dog bowls offer different features and some are better than others. Some considerations include cost, style, safety, purpose, durability, and ease of cleaning.
- Food, treats
He may be small, but your pup will have a big appetite and big calorie demands to give his body the energy to develop healthy bones, organs, skin, and coat. As a result, for the first 12 months of your pup’s life, you will feed him a diet created just for his demanding energy and nutritional needs.
These special diets are referred to as diets that are formulated for puppies or for “growth and development.” Food makers understand that puppies have specific needs, so they incorporate those nutritional requirements — the right blend of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals — into their special puppy blends. Veterinary nutritionists note that puppies must have these specific ingredients in their diets to develop into healthy adults. If you’re not sure about which diet to feed your puppy, talk to your veterinarian.
- Grooming supplies
Even though he’s still young, your puppy will need to be groomed and learn how to behave during the process. His coat will need regular washing, combing and brushing. He’ll also need his toenails trimmed, his ears cleaned, and his teeth brushed. To be prepared for the grooming routine as soon as he comes home, have these grooming supplies ready and understand how to properly use them.
Your puppy will require some identification. While there are two options — identification (ID) tags and microchips — it’s a good idea to use them both.
An ID tag, hangs from your pup’s collar, lists specific contact information that will reunite you with your dog should she run off. Some people include the dog’s name and their name, phone number, and address. At the very least, list your name and cell number.
A microchip is a rice-sized device that contains a code that is stored in a database with your contact information. Your veterinarian injects the chip between your dog’s shoulder blades, and when your dog is found, a staff member at the shelter uses a handheld scanner to read the code in the microchip. The code is then entered into the database, which tells the shelter your name and phone number, so you and your dog can be reunited. Remember to take the time to register your contact information and keep it up to date.
Toys can be categorized into chew toys that satisfy the need to gnaw, like hard-rubber toys; plush toys, like stuffed animals, that provide comfort to dogs; fetching toys, like balls and flying discs; rope and tug toys, which help to floss teeth while the pup plays; and critical thinking toys, like treat-dispensing devices, that release goodies when the pup performs a certain task.
Despite all the toy choices, you should only offer your puppy strong, durable, well-made toys that are sized appropriately for him. If your puppy does destroy a toy (and he probably will!), remove the damaged toy immediately. Exposed squeakers can be dangerous, as are stuffing, frayed rope toy strands, and small torn-off pieces that can be ingested.
Your dog’s first few weeks home will likely be a period of huge adjustment, for both of you. You can make the transition much easier all around if you prepare your home in advance, gather a team–vets, dog walkers, and doggie day care–and set up a routine right away.