So you have finally made the big decision to add an intrepid puppy to your life. Congrats! This is an exciting decision and one that will change your life for roughly the next 10-15 years. Mostly in a great and wonderful way, I promise. However, before you pick up your furry new addition, it is important to make sure that you (and your home) are ready for a puppy. Use this new puppy checklist to make sure that you aren’t missing any of the important items. A PDF version of the checklist is provided at the end of the post.
New Puppy Checklist
The Basic Needs
- A good puppy food and a bowl to put it in. There are SO many foods available in pet stores and online. First off make sure you purchase a food designed for puppies. Read the AAFCO statement on the side of the bag to ensure that the food you select is formulated for growth. Then, use the following handy websites to read more about the details of selecting pet foods:
- Water bowl. Just about every household has water already. You may need to head out a purchase a bowl, though.
- Shelter aka a kennel or crate.
- While shelter can be provided in many forms, I highly recommend kennel training all new puppies. Kennels serve a valuable purpose during the training period. Puppies have so much to learn and need to be under constant supervision. When supervision is not possible, they need a safe and comfortable resting place. A kennel provides this. Time in the kennel should not be overdone, as a puppy should view their kennel as a happy and relaxing place to be. If a puppy is kept in the kennel for long periods of time, they often become bored and frustrated. This association with negative emotions can make kennel training difficult. So start slow, only kennel when needed, offer plenty of treats and rewards for entering, and make the kennel a happy place. If introduced well, many adult dogs will come to use their kennel for a comfortable and quiet spot to sleep without prompting.
- Since the kennel is also assisting with supervising the puppy to prevent pottying in the house, it can be beneficial to make sure the kennel is not too large for the puppy. In a large kennel, puppies may feel like they can pee on one end and sleep on the other. A great solution for this problem is to purchase or make a divider for the kennel that can be moved as the puppy grows.
- Kennel pad/blanket. The kennel should be a warm and comfortable place for your puppy, so purchase a layer to go between your puppy and the floor of her kennel.
- A bed. A comfortable place to sleep when out of the kennel seems like another necessity. Just be warned, most puppies are pretty good at sleeping anywhere.
The Right Apparel and Accessories
- Collar and ID tag. Every puppy needs a collar as a way to make sure they always carry around identification. I don’t always make a puppy wear a collar when inside, but they do have it on every time we leave the house. If they are prone to trying to dart out an open door, then I have the puppy wear it 24/7. Every ID tag should have an up-to-date phone number. This way it is easy for someone to contact you if they find your lost puppy. In addition to the utilitarian functions, the collar can also add to your puppies cuteness.
- Leash. A good leash is also important. When outside, but not in a fenced in backyard, puppies should be leashed. They have not yet had the training needed to be good off-leash citizens. If you are trying to figure out what type of leash to use, check out my article on essentials for hiking with your intrepid pup. I discuss different harnesses and leashes in that section.
- Harness. In addition to just wearing a flat collar, I like to acclimate my dogs to wearing a harness. This helps reduce strain on the neck and throat.
- Sweater. I never thought I would be the type of person who dressed her dog up in sweaters. However, many puppies do not have an undercoat layer to their fur/hair. As a result, they can easily get chilled. If you have a young puppy that you want to take outside for extended periods in autumn or winter weather, you may want to consider a sweater. The added plus is that they look super cute!
The Fun Stuff: Toys, etc.
- Chew toys. We all know that puppies like to chew. Every one has heard horror stories about the things a bored or teething puppy has destroyed. Make sure to give your puppy age appropriate chew toys! I recommend a Kong and puppy stage Nylabones. Be careful that you do not choose a chew toy that is too hard (puppies can break their teeth) or too soft (puppies can break off pieces and swallow them, resulting in risk for intestinal foreign bodies).
- Stuffed toys. I like to also give my puppies fun stuffed toys with squeakers. Just make sure they don’t rip out and ingest the stuffing or the squeaker itself!
- Puzzle toys. Puzzle toys (like treat dispensing balls) are a great way to help puppies beat boredom and interact with their environment.
- Treats. Buy a few treats for your puppy, but don’t over feed these. You will need to use a multitude of food rewards in the process of training your pup. However, most puppies are just as happy to receive a piece of their regular kibble as they are a labeled treat. I recommend mostly feeding part of a puppies regular food as rewards. This keeps the “treats” healthy and nutritionally balanced.
The Maintenance Kit: Grooming and Hygiene
- Brush. Especially if your puppy will have a longer coat or an undercoat, take the time to get your puppy used to being brushed early on. It will make your (or your groomer’s) life easier in the long run.
- Shampoo. Don’t forget shampoo. Puppies have a tendency to get messy.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. Start your puppy off right with good dental hygiene. Start with small sessions and work up to a full mouth brushing. Your puppy will lose his or her baby teeth, but just like human children, you are setting up a good habit. Brushing your dog’s teeth once a day can significantly reduce her development of dental disease. For more information about dental care for dogs, read about the VOHC seal.
- Nail clippers. Just like teeth, getting your puppy used to having his paws handled and nails clipped is easy if you start young and use lots of positive rewards. If you have a food motivated puppy, enlist a second person to feed your puppy every time you trim his nails. Associating nail trimming with food can make a huge difference in how positive the experience is.
The Health Check
- Schedule a visit with veterinarian. Within the first week or two, schedule a visit with a veterinarian. If your puppy has health concerns, it is important to catch those quickly. Puppies frequently have intestinal parasites (worms) which can become a big problem if not treated early. Additionally, getting your puppy vaccinated is essential to help protect her against some nasty viruses. I also like to get puppies started on a flea/tick and heartworm preventative by the time they are 8 weeks+.
The Good Manners
- Training class and socialization. This may be the most important part of this checklist (secondary perhaps to the basic needs). Good dogs are well-trained and well-socialized dogs. If you haven’t trained a puppy before, I highly recommend signing up for a puppy class. A good trainer will teach you all about positive reinforcement and working with your puppy on a “learn to earn” or “sit to say please” type program. They will also help you through potty training and puppy proofing your house. Another bonus of going to a puppy class is that you are also working on socialization at the same time. Your puppy will meet other puppies and new humans. They will experience being in a car and listening to you in an environment outside your home. There are even more considerations and benefits, but if I kept going this paragraph would be its own blog post. So get your puppy trained and socialized. And remember – optimal puppy socialization takes place between about 8 to 16 weeks. After 16 weeks, your puppy will already be less open to new experiences. Whether or not you use a training class, I recommend using a socialization checklist like this one from Dr. Sophia Yin.
Here is the link for the PDF version of the The Complete New Puppy Checklist
Okay readers, now it is your turn. What must have item do you recommend purchasing for a new puppy? Do you have your own new puppy checklist?