Are you getting a Puppy? Lucky you! I’m so excited for this journey you’re going to have together. So let us support you.
I’ve sourced a lot of this on amazon for your convenience! The Puppy Starter Checklist is here for your convenience! These are affiliate links, but these are all things I own or have owned and can verify their awesomeness. These are charged to you at a standard price, but I do earn a teency bit of commission! See our affiliate policy for more details.
You’ll notice in here I also do a lot of planning for Murphy’s Law.
If you don’t know it? It’s also known as Sod’s Law in the UK – it’s nothing scientific, but…
A noticeable pattern, a psuedo-law of nature that implies anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
So, you can see why that might apply in case of a puppy, right? Anyway! Are you ready?
18 things on this part of the Puppy Starter Checklist are things I would deem critical or essential to have before puppy comes home to make sure puppy is cared for to the very best of your ability – and please do make sure they are there before puppy gets home, this way you won’t have to leave pup for an unnecessary emergency run to the shops!
1 – Food & Water Bowl
I love a matching set for these, make sure that they’re dishwasher safe (if you use a dishwasher) and that they’re big enough for your dog. Personally? I like Metal or Ceramic because they keep nice and clean, but a well maintained plastic bowl should be fine too (just remember they can be a cause of puppy acne if they’re not kept squeaky clean!).
2 – Food
I know you knew this but yes! This is a huge decision. Generally, bring them home on what the breeder has weaned them onto. Make sure you have a good supply, because I promise you, they’re going to eat more than you think they will. Long term, you’re going to have to consider what you want them on, and if you’re considering these things? We’re here to help.
3 – Crate
If you’re planning on crate training (which I would recommend if you like your home) you’re going to need one of these! They’re super beneficial when you’re toilet training and creating a responsible puppy. If you’re needing help picking one? We’re here to help!
4 – Crate Cover
These are actually one of the most underestimated pieces of kit that are so important for your puppy. The world is huge for a puppy! A Crate cover helps to shrink that down and make them feel safe – and unlike a blanket, it’s something that’s been constructed to fit the crate and removed the risk of it being pulled through the bars of the crate which then becomes a strangulation risk (Honestly, I’m not fear-mongering here, I’ve seen it!).
5 – Bed
Whether they are in a crate, or you’re free training, your dog needs a bed. They need their space! Make sure they have it, and it should be a space where they are not interrupted. Make sure this is washable, because it’s likely you’re going to have accidents to start!
6 – Playpen
This is a possibility that might really help you train. It’s like the crate, but it’s a secure indoor fence (basically!) that works really nicely to keep your puppy from failing. Personally, I like them after you’ve successfully toilet trained. You can also use them to keep puppy from something specific, like the priceless vase your nanna gave you – though to be honest, that should be put away before you get puppy…
7 – Training Treats
Make sure they’re something small, and you’re going to want to stock up on premium treats (usually meat works really well, so ham or chicken) as well as some more basic biscuits. Remember! Don’t buy big quantities, because I promise you if you do? You’re going to end up with a fussy pupper that doesn’t like any of them… because that is Murphy’s law.
8 – Leash
Pick something light. This is going to be just for puppy’s first walks, please don’t try and pick something that will last their entire life here. Light and easy. Remember the concept of a lead is likely (unless you have an ace breeder!) to be so strange to them, so let’s make the barrier to entry as small as possible.
9 – Collar
Like the lead? I want you to pick one that’s super light. Again, this is a hugely alien concept for puppy so you’re going to want to make it as easy as possible. So pick a light temporary collar that expands a lot so that when you pick their good one? You can get one that fits nicely.
10 – ID Tag
And a spare one! You’d be surprised how easily these little devils get lost or detached. So make sure there’s a spare at home, because in some places it’s a legal requirement to have an ID tag on your dog, and gosh, if they ever got lost, wouldn’t you rather be as prepared as possible and get the best chances of getting them home?
Oh! And, do remember to get one when you go on holiday too!!
11 – Crash Tested Harness
If you’re planning on driving with your dog? Please do make sure they’re securely fastened in the car. A dog left loose in the car is at such a huge risk if you crash. It’s a small thing that just may save their life. It’s good to note that these are only tested up for 36kg (approx. 79 lbs) – so whilst your puppy will be fine, you may want to make other arrangements, such as …
12 – Crash Tested Crate
As above, but it’s another choice you have to try (and especially if your pup will go over the 36kg testing limit eventually) and make sure that they’re kept safe whilst you travel. I wouldn’t use this if you’re not travelling often? But if your dog will travel with you frequently, it’s worth the investment. I personally really like getting ones that are specifically made for your vehicle. They optimise space and make things as comfortable as possible for you and pup.
I’ve never tested the quality of those on Amazon, because the information is too sparse to make me comfortable, but I know the ones from Gunner are up to scratch!
13 – Chews
Now, if you haven’t heard, teething puppies are … just so tough. So, you’re going to be in desperate want of these to give you 5 minutes of peace – not to mention that you’ll need them to make sure that puppy loves their crate or bed! Oh! And do avoid rawhide (read more about the risks of rawhide)!
14 – Towels
Puppy is going to get wet. So, if you want to make sure that puppy doesn’t need to be dried in your super luxury soft towels? Make sure you keep some old ones, or pick up some cheaper ones. When they’re fully grown, I’d really advise a drying coat! But for now, a towel is all you need. They also double up well as an emergency blanket!
15 – Toys
Get lots of these you want balls, tuggy toys, stuffed toys, hard toys, soft toys, and different textures. Your puppy will have a preference, and that preference could change. It’s always worth getting an army of these (And i’m sure you’ll be gifted lots too) to make sure you have the right tool for the job at the right time.
16 – Cleaning supplies
Make no bones about the fact that your puppy is going to have accidents. They will. And actually? It’s probably going to be your fault (Sorry!) because you weren’t watching, or you didn’t see their little signal asking you to take them out. So! You’re going to need Kitchen towels, likely trash bags, and some enzymatic cleaner to get rid of the smell of pee. I’d also stock up on dish soap, and washing detergent, and maybe some rubber gloves if you have squeamish tendencies (don’t worry, those will go!)
17 – Poo Bags
If you’re taking puppy anywhere, these are a must, sorry! It’s the responsible thing to do for your puppy and the planet! Try picking something that’s handy and works with your system – whether that system is your back pocket, or a pocket/dispenser in your treat bag.
18 – Blanket
If you’re being super pro-active and you have a wonderful breeder, they might allow this blanket to go to mum and siblings so that when it comes home it smells like something they know, in this whole new world of unfamiliar smells. Whether this goes in your pup’s crate, or on the sofa with you both when you’re encouraging a settle? It’s a great way to bond and let your pup know that not everything has changed.
And, even if your breeder won’t do this? A lovely cosy blanket can be a great training tool for if they are allowed on the sofa, or not, or the bed, or even encouraging a settle in an unfamiliar place.
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1 – Hot Water Bottle / Heartbeat toy
This can be an awesome way to help puppy settle on their first few nights – can you imagine how it is to lose your entire family in one fell swoop and get a total new one, and be asked to sleep alone? In the cold, in a new place? Sounds terrifying, don’t you think? Something like the Heartbeat Toy can help make puppy feel less alone because there’s something else there that’s a little like home… If not! A warm (not hot!) hot water bottle can help puppy feel not quite so cold compared to what they’re used to.
2 – Puppy Pads
Used as part of a toilet training routine, these can be great if used in the right way. They can help puppy learn where to centralise their mess, and usually their plastic lined and you can ditch them easily when they’re soiled. They can be really useful if you’re teaching puppy where to pee whilst living in a small apartment and to tide over the time where they need to pee super regularly.
Personally, I don’t like them. I feel like you’re adding in an unnecessary step between indoor and outdoor that can just be totally eliminated by routine and dedication. I also do not like walking in to the smell of puppy poop. They’re also pretty rubbish for the environment – as far as I’m aware there is no green option for these (though if you know one, please let me know!!). But hey! That’s just me and you may find these a really useful solution.
3 – Brushes
Depending on the coat of your specific puppy? Depends on the brush you need! Personally, I would wait for this! And I would ask your groomer – if you’ve follows our advice on picking a great groomer? Then they’ll definitely know the sort of brush you should be using to help your dog on their grooming journey! I do love the Zoom groom for my double coated shep, and my slick coated hounds – please do check with a groomer though.
4 – Insurance
Please do consider getting these. Puppies are likely to get themselves into trouble, and vets bills can be expensive. It’s also best to be cautious, right? Public liability is something you need to get at absolute minimum, because you know… you just know that murphy’s law dictates that if your puppy ever decides to hit a parked car and make a big ol’ dent in the door as he blindly runs after a ball – they’re gonna pick the classic 1964 Ferrari 250 LM… which (if you’re not a car nerd, and I don’t expect you to be!) is $19m worth of car… yikes! Can you imagine the repair bill?! So yeah, public liability is a great idea!
Also, do check your policy (I know, i know they’re full of jargon and rubbish, but it’s worth it!) make sure you get one that helps with investigation costs and behavioural costs – because some policies cover training too. Yeah! That’s my pro tip.
5 – Claw Clippers
A Good Home Grooming Routine is a fantastic way to be with your puppy. So, make sure you’re getting an appropriate set of clippers and start early! It’s great to be able to handle your pup and to keep working on making sure they’re comfortable being touched in any place (yes, any place). So, trimming claws at home is a great (and cost effective!) method of training. Again if you’re unsure, ask your awesome groomer or, us! Why not check out our Claw Maintenance at Home post!
Oh! And remember, you do not have to do all their claws at the same time! If you get one, that might be enough for today!
6 – Flea medications
Prevention is the best cure! So when you get puppy, or just before, speak to your vet to get a good medication for puppy. You don’t really want to be changing this that much? Dogs can react to these chemicals, so (at least to my mind!) it’s like food, when you find one that works for you and your puppy? Stick to it!
It’s also a really good idea to make sure you understand what Fleas are, what to look for and what you could expect to see or precautions you could take.
Flea medications work by turning your dogs blood (effectively) toxic to fleas, so when they bite, they die, killing them off and meaning that their time using your lovely puppy as a host is minimal.
If you’re looking to doubly make sure that your dog isn’t going to pick up fleas, why not consider adding a second barrier or a natural flea deterrent! Natural flea deterrents differ from the chemicals because they are usually a daily dose of a combo of natural agents that repel fleas – as opposed to making your dog toxic to them.
My favourite thing to do here, is to use both, then I know that on the last few days of the medication? That my dogs are still pretty unappealing to these little buggars!
7 – Worm medication
Again, this is something you should consider. A very easy way to continue is to use worm medication as prescribed by a Vet! I’m sure your vet and breeder will discuss this with you. This is probably something you’ll get on your first vet visit – depending on puppy size, this may be a tablet or powder and will most likely be given monthly to prevent all sorts of nasty parasites.
8 – Clicker
These can be a great tool for marking good behaviour in your new little puppy. Do some research, see if you like them? The concept (in its most basic, short form is; puppy does things right, you use the clicker to ‘mark’ (this is trainer jargon for the word, tone, noise or signal that you give to your dog) the good or desirable behaviour, and much like Pavlov & his bell – your dog learns to associate that exact noise with good things.
I’m not in to clicker training, personally. I think it’s another partition between you and your dog that’s unnecessary. I worry about what happens when you don’t have a clicker too, and I’d argue the dog creates a bond with the clicker and not with you. But that is pure opinion! So, if you want to, and you think it will work for you? By all means grab one of these.
What isn’t opinion, is that proper ‘marking’ in any form doesn’t have any noticeable benefit over any other form! So personally? I like vocal cues, most people have a voice and it’s very hard to forget or leave it behind like your keys or your sisters birthday card…
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY….
Remember this is going to be a super tough time. Your gorgeous new bundle of joy is going to test your every last fibre – but they’re worth it. I promise you.
Sometimes you have to breathe deep, but you will get there. And if you’re struggling, have you considered if it’s The Puppy Blues?
Phew! Long list, huh? It’s going to help you to help puppy be the best he or she can be.
If you’re wondering who are the necessary people to have? Well that’s coming in a blog post very soon!
Congratulations to you on your new addition to your family, you and puppy are going to love it!
P.s. Don’t forget to share this with your friends and new puppy owners!
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021’s worlds’ best pet blog!