Welcoming a puppy into your home can be both an extremely exciting and highly stressful experience. You should expect the first few days to be a little rough, especially if it’s your first time as a pet parent. It’s best to make a shopping list and head to a pet store before you bring your new puppy home.
Besides going shopping, there are other preparations you need to make for your new puppy.
- Lots of Research: You should study extensively about the breed and how to raise and train puppies well before the big day arrives. Ask the breeder for book recommendations and other resources, such as videos or online articles. If you think you already know everything, you’ve got a lot left to learn!
- Puppy-Proof House and Yard: For example – hide trashcans in closets, cover your electrical outlets, tie up cables out of reach, secure televisions and other decorations, move open storage bins up high, put all food and medication in latched cupboards, get cabinet locks for cleaning supplies, clean up toxic spills such as antifreeze, remove all poison traps for insects and vermin, put away office and hardware supplies such as nails and staples, secure all doors and windows, and check for holes in your fence line.
- Select Vet, Groomer, and Boarding Facility: Find a facility you like in your area with great staff and affordable prices. It’s great to establish a relationship ahead of time rather than waiting until the last minute when your pup desperately needs medication, a bath, or a place to stay while you’re out of town.
- Enroll in Positive Puppy Kindergarten: Not all trainers or dog classes are created equal. Thoroughly research the options in your area and find a CPDT-KA certified trainer who uses only positive reinforcement techniques. Good classes may be hard to get into, like enrolling your kid in private school, but it is worth the effort. There should be a lot of focus on socialization and play time for very young puppies, who don’t have the stamina for a long session of drills and obedience.
- Schedule Vet Exam: Make sure to schedule an exam within 72 hours of picking up your puppy. Some states have “puppy lemon laws” to protect the buyer when the breeder sells them a sick puppy, but you have to take the pup to the vet right away to prove it was sick when you got it. After 72 hours, the incubation period for most diseases, there is no way to know if the puppy didn’t pick up the illness in your care. Make sure to get a fecal exam and prescription flea, tick, and heartworm control at the first checkup.
When You Pick Up Your Puppy…
The following items are essential to take with you when you go to pick up your new dog. Without them, your first meeting and trip home could be very stressful and fraught with disaster.
- Adjustable Collar: A nylon flat buckle collar that adjusts to grow with your pup is usually a good choice for your pup’s first collar.
- 4’ to 6’ Leash: A 6-foot nylon or leather leash is the standard for obedience classes, while a 4-foot leash offers more control.
- Identification Tag: Many pet stores have a kiosk to engrave metal or plastic tags with your contact info while you wait.
- Poop Bags: Your puppy may need to potty on the drive home, especially if it is long. Walk him to avoid accidents in your car.
- Water: Puppies can get thirsty during long drives. Ask the breeder if the pup knows how to drink from a water bottle, or bring a bowl.
- Travel Crate/Carrier: The carrier should be snug and not too roomy, so your puppy doesn’t get thrown around and injured in the car.
- Towels/Potty Pads: Accidents happen! Protect your lap and carrier with old towels or potty pads with waterproof backing.
- Camera: Don’t forget to take lots of pics! 🙂
- Quality Dog Food: Start with the same food that the breeder or shelter has been using and slowly transition to whatever food you have decided to feed. Research quality brands and formulas at Dog Food Advisor.
- Food and Water Bowls
- Food Storage Container and Scoop
- Vitamins and Supplements: Quality dog foods usually don’t need any additional supplements, but some dogs may have special needs. Consult your breeder.
- Digestive Aid: Almost all puppies get loose stool from the stress of moving to a new home and family. Use 100% pumpkin (not pie filling!), Firm Up!, or Perfect Form to help minimize the effects.
Health and Safety
- Flea & Tick Control: Decide whether you want a topical or oral parasite control and research the mode of action and side effects of the brands you are considering.
- Microchip: Get your puppy microchipped and remember to register your contact information on the chip! Half of microchipped animals aren’t registered, which defeats the whole purpose.
- Pet First-Aid Kit: Make sure to include self-cling bandages (aka “vet wrap”), absorbent gauze pads or maxi pads, cotton balls, Q-tips, antiseptic wipes, Neosporin, scissors, tweezers, needle-nose pliers, digital thermometer with disposable covers, hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, Benadryl, Pepsid AC or Tums, Betagen for hot spots, Kaopectate, Aspirin, Robitussin DM, saline ophthalmic solution for red or runny eyes, Dulcolax, and 1% Hydrocortisone cream. If you have access to prescription pet medications and know the correct dosages, also include Clavamox, Prednisone, and Rimadyl.
- Medical Records
- Emergency Contacts
- Pet Alert Decals: Place on the windows of your home and car so emergency services know there are pets inside.
- Slicker Brush
- Silicone Brush
- Grooming Scissors
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Ear Cleaning Solution
- Cotton Balls
- Nail Clippers/Grinder
- Styptic Powder
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Choose products proven to be effective by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
- Pet-Safe Wipes
- Forced Air Dryer (Optional)
- Grooming Table (Optional)
For the Home
- Full Sized Crate
- Dog Bed/Pillow/Pad: At least two sets so one is available while the other is being laundered
- Baby Gate(s)
- Dog Door (Optional)
- Wire Playpen
- Indoor Drag Line
- Bitter Apple Spray
- Pet Odor Enzymatic Cleaner
- Pet-Safe Cleaners and Detergents
Training and Housebreaking
- Training Treats: Get at least three different flavors or “tiers” of treats. A treat for reinforcing everyday commands your dog already knows (eg. kibble or cereal), a better treat for working on new commands or with added distraction, distance, or duration (eg. smelly/juicy store bought treats), and an amazing “jackpot” treat for really important training such as off-leash recall (eg. chicken, hot dogs, or cheese).
- Treat Pouch
- Clicker (Optional)
- Target Stick (Optional)
- Jingle Bell for Door(s)
- Potty Pads
- Pooper Scooper
- Poop Bags
- 15′ to 30′ Leash/Drag Line
Note: Never use a retractable leash.
Fun and Games
- Chew Toys: Get at least 5 or 6 safe hard rubber toys that satisfy the need to gnaw. The more the better – toys can be rotated.
- Plush Toys
- Fetch Toys
- Rope and Tug Toys
- Interactive Toys
- Puzzle Toys
- Bully Sticks/Raw Meaty Bones (Optional)
Note: Never give your dog rawhide or cooked bones.