Many of my clients ask me what they should purchase before bringing home a dog or puppy for the first time. Most of them spend too much money purchasing useless items. So, I’m going to lay out the essentials for you here.
First and foremost you need at least one crate. Two would be better. Second, you need toys , as many as you can get your hands on. Lastly, you’re going to need tools to help you care for and manage the dog. Let’s take a look at the things we need to help us care for and educate our fur children from nose to toes.
I’ll mention briefly that every new puppy or dog needs safe containment regardless of their history, disposition, or breed. Dogs that have spent too much time locked away in crates or even dogs never kept in containment at all can learn to accept containment. Take a look at our premiere video outlining certain considerations for choosing a crate, or take a look at this article I wrote that goes into greater detail. As a professional trainer, I have found uses for full size exercise pens, but I rarely find them appropriate for my clients when it comes to meeting initial training goals.
After you have purchased your containment solution consider what bedding you will use for the crate. I always advise my clients to choose items you already own that were destined for the donation pile, or purchasing inexpensive bedding until you find out what your dog likes and if your puppy can handle being left alone with bedding. This is necessary as the dog may destroy it, potentially harming itself. Any old linens will do. You want to provide a soft space that makes the dog comfortable and helps to induce relaxation. This crate pad found on Amazon is a nice choice and corresponds with these double-door crates from Midwest. Throw an old blanket on top for nesting and you’re set.
After you’ve got your crates and bedding squared away give some thought to toys. When you’re shopping for toys look for variation. I like to offer toys that are specifically for chewing such as this Benebone product. When it comes to size I find value in the largest size I think the dog can handle. If the toy is too big for the dog from floor to mouth it will be too big for his paws to hold steady. These Nylabone brand chews made for puppies are appropriate for puppies only — but even though they are formulated for puppies I continue to check from time to time making sure my puppy isn’t growing into a stronger chewer, at which point I might switch them to a different chew. Antlers are a favorite at my home as well. I find most dogs prefer split antlers. Antlers come with a higher price tag, but I think the greater cost is appropriate to their appeal to the dog and longevity. At the very least, you need one toy for chomping and tugging and one ball. When you find out what your dog likes, you can add more specific types of toys to your collection. The size of the plush toy doesn’t matter so much. I like to buy these Skinneeeze that aren’t stuffed and have a squeaker but you’ve got to be careful with that squeaker. As soon as the dog extracts it you need to throw it out. Skip the tennis balls for now and purchase durable rubber balls instead. The Chuck It brand is Mickey’s fave. Mickey shreds and consumes tennis balls. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Now let’s talk about gear. This is where people tend to lose their minds. Don’t go crazy here. Start slow. You need one good leash for walking and perhaps a less expensive lighter leash for management around the house. Of course, you also need one collar containing identification. Not only will this collar serve as a way to identify your dog should he become separated from you, but also as his first collar he’ll get used to wearing. This collar has been my favorite for a few years. I find this collar practical on many levels; most of all because it is waterproof. If your dog rolls in the….ahem…mud, it can be quickly cleaned with a wipe-down. It is reflective and is designed with a practical buckle style. I purchased this collar for the first time in 2017 and again for my newly acquired pooch in early 2021. I maintain all tags in a hard file as I find them unsafe for the dog to keep attached to his collar.
I skip the harnesses for a couple of reasons. I’ll be teaching my pup to walk on a loose leash. Making it easier for the dog to pull doesn’t factor into my style and if you’ve ever put a harness on a puppy….well, if you know, you know. In the name of full disclosure I do own harnesses for my adult dogs as alternatives. For example my dog recently had an abrasion on his neck where his collar would rest. I used his harness to walk him until the wound was completely healed. But the main purpose for both of my dog’s harnesses are for securing them in the vehicle. I don’t recommend this be done with a puppy. I recommend all untrained puppies or dogs ride in a crate in the vehicle. You can concern yourself with securing them in the seat with a harness once they’ve matured — which may be several months from the time you first bring your new puppy home and who knows what size of harness they would need at that time.
Now we’re ready for bowls. You will want one bowl for food and depending on the size of your home you will most likely only need one bowl for water. I’ve used the classic stainless steel bowl for the last twenty years. You’ll never need to replace it. It’s sanitary and lightweight. This bowl is as basic as it gets. The only reason you might want a different bowl is if you’ve got a pup that needs to slow his eating or a pup that is afraid of the reflection. The latter is rare but I witness it from time to time. A ceramic bowl may work better for the scaredy-pup. You don’t need anything special. A cereal bowl out of your cabinet will suffice. There are many “slow eater” bowls available on the market but you can easily DIY your own with an unopened can of green beans. I place my dogs bowls in separate corners for meal time to keep the bowls from moving around and then pick them up for washing when they are finished. You can purchase one with a rubber bottom but I have found that the rubber may come off and water can get between the rubber and bowl. My corner solution works for me. I keep a cute ceramic bowl for water in an out of the way corner by our peninsula in the kitchen with an absorbable mat under it. When you are choosing a water bowl, smaller is better than larger. Main Reason-I’d prefer to refill a small water bowl twice per day than have to dump a large water bowl and refill it once per day because its become a pool of muck and gunk as the dog transfers dirt and food from its mouth to the bowl . A large water bowl is messy and if you are housebreaking, a small water bowl makes it easier to monitor unnecessary intake.
We can’t forget grooming. To start you’ll need one soft brush, one set of nail clippers and a shampoo formulated for dogs. A soft brush may not be appropriate for your puppy or dog long term but it’s a great tool to get them comfortable with being brushed. We use a slicker brush around here, but it’s too much to ask puppy to tolerate the harshness of a slicker brush on day one. While you may never use your nail clippers, as I don’t, you’ll do your dog as well as your groomer or vet tech a great service by getting the puppy used to the item touching its nails. If you plan to clip them yourself keep some styptic powder around just in case. My dear friend that was a vet tech for 10 years never picks up nail clippers without also grabbing her styptic powder. I like this shampoo. It’s a good, all-around starter. Even if you know you’ll get your dog groomed by a professional you need to keep some shampoo on hand for emergencies.
Finally you’ll need a way to scoop poop. I’m currently living in a building that supplies bags but I keep some of my own poop bags on hand for when we’re off property. I never liked the classic rake and pail method. I found it rather unwieldy and messy. I even used bags to clean up when we had a backyard. And for those messes that don’t make it to the potty spot I recommend Eco 88.
Well, there you have it. These are my basics for “new dog” supplies. You may be thinking I left out the most crucial item. Food! You’d be right. The topic of food is so vast it can’t possibly be addressed in one paragraph. My typical advice to folks bringing home a new dog is to keep the pup on its current food until he’s settled into his new home. Once he’s settled you can wile away your hours researching the best food for your dog and your budget.