I remember the very first day I brought Rusty home. Rusty, my second Labrador, was the first dog I’d acquired as a puppy. Bridget, my older, very naughty girl, was seven months old when I bought her with my life savings. So Rusty was an incredibly different experience. I was lucky–his breeder, my good friend, gave me a master list of things that I’d need on-hand when he came home. This is my personal new puppy shopping list, with a few changes.
Crates prevent problems. Many people feel that crating is cruel, but I feel very much the opposite. We give our children places that they call their own, places they can go when they are overstimulated, sad, or tired, and dogs deserve the same. Crates help alleviate separation anxiety, contribute to housebreaking, and prevent bites.
A crate should be slightly taller than the dog measures at the shoulder, and long enough he can stand. Large breed puppies may require two crates or a divider. Most crate manufacturers provide breed sizing charts.
If you never intend to travel with your dog, buy a wire crate with a metal or plastic pan. The pan removes for easy cleaning, and wire hoses down well. If you travel frequently, purchase a plastic crate that meets airline requirements. Your breeder should help you choose the right size for an adult. Airlines require closed crates.
Wooden and sheet metal crates exist as well, but cost more money and weigh too much to be practical in a home. Furniture-style crates are also suitable once your dog has acclimated to crating. Don’t purchase expensive furniture crates until your puppy is housebroken.
Fabric crates do not work for puppies. Don’t try it–your puppy will trash it.
Start your puppy off using old towels as a bed. Any bed with entertainment value will turn into entertainment as soon as possible. Towels are boring; use towels. Once she gets a little older, she can have a cute bed.
Leash & Collar
Purchase a lightweight leash and collar initially. Your puppy needs consistent leash training from day one for socialization. Start with an inexpensive flat collar and leash, and upgrade as your puppy ages.
Some breeds with very narrow heads require a different style of collar. Most sighthound breeders use martingale style collars that tighten gently as the dog pulls, preventing escapes.
As your puppy ages, and his interest in chewing on things wanes, many families choose a rolled leather collar and leather leash for durability. I always preferred nylon, because I always had someone in the house that would destroy leather.
With proper training, a slip lead is my preferred lead. Many exhibitors use this style because regular collars damage the coat on the dog’s neck. However, this style of leash does not provide any permanent tags and shouldn’t be used with dogs without microchips.
Many puppies wear harnesses. I find that it’s harder to teach puppy not to pull with a harness, because it doesn’t provide as much feedback from the person on the other end of the leash.
Food & Dishes
The food debate is heated. I personally recommend doing whatever your breeder tells you feed. Veterinarians also can provide solid information on food and diet, however, veterinarians also often prefer a different weight than breeders. For example, in Labrador Retrievers, most breeders keep a bit more weight on their dogs than veterinarians recommend, but in other breeds they prefer a bit of extra weight.
Dishes are…dishes. You can get fancy or stick to plain stainless. I like to use a boot pan to put them in. The edge keeps stray kibble and water off the floor. With big dogs, especially breeds that drool, you’ll end up with a lot of water on the floor.
Toys! Aisles and aisles of pet stores contain nothing but toys. Get a few different kinds of toys to keep your puppy stimulated.
- Chew toys. Some owners like rawhide, some like bones, others prefer antlers or nylabones. Puppies lose their puppy teeth and grow permanent teeth, just like humans, starting around four months. Chew toys provide relief, so puppies chew a lot.
- Fun toys. Puppies love playing with other pets and people. Toys you can use together provide entertainment for both of you. This can be small tug toys, balls for fetch, or squeaker toys.
- Smart toys. Smart toys keep your puppy occupied for a period of time, and can provide intellectual stimulation. I love the Buster Cube and the Kong, but tons of options exist.
Puppies are poop machines. Make sure to get enough poop bags to last a few weeks. I always tell myself that I’ll just save enough plastic grocery bags, but it never works out and then I’m scrambling. Poop bags biodegrade over several months in a natural environment, so are very eco-friendly.
You’re going to teach your new puppy a ton of adorable tricks, and you can’t do that without training treats. You want something smelly and high-value. Liver and bacon treats work great.
While not an absolute must-have, an exercise pen provides your new puppy with more space to stretch out, play, and of course do her business. If your puppy stays home while you work, an exercise pen provides a more humane option than a crate for long hours.
Exercise pens also help with long car trips, letting your dog stretch her legs a bit at rest stops while letting the adults tend to the family. They also help out at parties, when you can have your dog at the party without worrying about whether she’ll steal the hamburgers.
Puppy must have her nails trimmed weekly, so save time and money by purchasing clippers. I prefer the scissor style, as I find trims easier.
Brushes & Combs & Shampoos
No new puppy shopping list would be complete without grooming equipment. While some breeds require very little grooming, others require daily brushing and combing for the puppy to be comfortable.
Talk to your breeder about the best brush/comb setup. Even breeds that visit the groomer require a quick comb-through daily, and brushing reduces shedding in double-coated breeds like Huskies. With my Labs, I use a slicker brush and a wide-tooth comb to get down to the skin to check for ticks and hot spots. When I had a collie, I used a pin brush, finer tooth comb, and thinning shears to keep him neat.
Needs vary based on breed and clip. Talk to your breeder or a groomer for the correct way to keep your dog neat and clean.
Start grooming from day one. Nothing is more frustrating than an 80 pound dog that won’t cooperate.
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Yes, dogs require daily tooth care, just like humans! Start as a new puppy, and she will tolerate it well once she’s larger.
I wish I’d known to have a few of these items ahead of time when I brought Rusty home. I had the crate, but no exercise pen, and regretted it. The toothbrush & toothpaste also should’ve been part of my arsenal from day one. I used large knuckle bones, but as he got older he needed more help.
Make sure to check out our Housebreaking Tips as well!
Did you find a dog supply that you found invaluable? What was it, and why did you regret not having it sooner?