By Wendy Wilson
Finding the perfect products for your puppy can be a blast — and there are plenty of them to choose from. Walk through any pet boutique, big-box retailer or department store, and you’ll see aisles of premium foods and treats, plush beds, toys of every shape and size, and even doggy haute couture. It will be tempting to splurge on your new dog. To begin with, however, pick up these items to make your pup’s homecoming a smooth one.
Your puppy will need a collar and leash the day you bring her home. A collar — plain or fancy — holds your pup’s dog license and identification tag, which lists your name and phone number. The collar attaches to the leash, which you will need to walk your pup.
For your dog’s first few collars, pick up an adjustable nylon type with a two-piece buckle. The collar should fit snugly so it won't slip off, but should not be too tight; you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and the pup's neck. As your pup gets older, you can expect to buy several collars as she outgrows them.
The leash, which attaches to the collar, gives you control during walks or obedience training. The leash should be strong and well made, as should the hardware that links the leash to the collar. For your comfort, the leash should also have a loop that is easy to grip. Plan to use a shorter 4-foot leash with your puppy at first; when you enroll in obedience training, you’ll use longer leashes.
A must for any puppy owner, crates and containment devices keep your new pal in a confined area where you can monitor and housetrain him. You will need a dog crate or carrier, and an exercise pen, playpen, or gate when you bring your pup home.
Hard-sided crates and travel carriers are made from a variety of materials, including stainless steel, plastic, and fiberglass. Though the stainless steel crates will last a lifetime, the lightweight plastic and fiberglass varieties provide a measure of safety and security for your puppy while driving or flying. They also replicate a cozy, warm den — especially when you outfit it with a soft bed or blanket.
When choosing a crate or carrier, make sure that your pup can stand up, lie down, turn around, and stretch inside. Though dogs prefer to have a close-in den-like space, they also need room — but not too much — to feel comfortable.
If you are unable to keep a watchful eye on your puppy, you may also wish to purchase a pen or some baby gates to keep him corralled. Exercise pens are a set of portable wire panels that confine your pup to a specific area. You can adjust them to fit just about any space. Baby gates, which are used to cordon off restricted areas, prevent him from roaming where he shouldn’t.
The first night your puppy comes home, she’ll need a comfy bed to lay her head. While you’re housetraining her, you will have her sleep in his crate or kennel. Smaller beds and bumper beds covered in fleece or sheepskin are designed just for this purpose. They keep the dog warm and cozy while she’s dozing away.
After your puppy is housetrained and graduates from her crate to a real dog bed, you can choose from a wide range of pillows, cushions, dog-sized couches, and even memory-foam mattresses — all of which can be matched to your home’s décor. If environmental sustainability is important to you, you can find beds that come stuffed with recycled materials, like repurposed cotton or soda bottles. You can also find beds stuffed with cedar chips for odor and insect control. Most beds have removable, washable covers. Select a small- to medium-sized bed that makes her feel cozy and secure.
If your pup tends to chew on her bedding and ingest some of the foam or stuffing, remove it from her crate or take it away from her to prevent possible intestinal blockage. Offer her a blanket or towel to sleep on until she gets over her chewing phase.
Your puppy will need food and water bowls when he comes home, and there are many varieties available through your pet specialty retailer. You can choose ceramic or stainless steel dishes, plastic crocks, and even glass bowls — but all these place settings for your pooch have their benefits and drawbacks.
The least expensive options are plastic bowls and crocks. While most can be cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher, plastic can harbor bacteria and residue, especially in dented or scratched areas on the surface. If you go with plastic, select a harder, dishwasher-safe bowl and replace it when it starts to show signs of wear.
Ceramic dishware and glass bowls can be heavy so they likely won’t become toys, but they can be expensive — not to mention breakable — and some ceramic pieces can contain lead, which is harmful to your dog. If you buy ceramic, make sure it’s dishwasher safe and lead-free.
Stainless steel bowls, though generally the most expensive, are the best choice. They’re strong, easy to clean and sanitize, and usually too cumbersome for a puppy to carry in his mouth. Many raised feeders and custom-carved bowl holders come with stainless steel bowls.
She may be small, but your pup will have a big appetite and big calorie demands to give her body the energy to develop healthy bones, organs, skin, and coat. As a result, for the first 12 months of your pup’s life, you will feed her a diet created just for her demanding energy and nutritional needs.
These special diets are referred to as diets that are formulated for puppies or for “growth and development.” Food makers understand that puppies have specific needs, so they incorporate those nutritional requirements — the right blend of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals — into their special puppy blends. Veterinary nutritionists note that puppies must have these specific ingredients in their diets to develop into healthy adults.
If you’re not sure about which diet to feed your puppy, talk to your veterinarian, breeder or knowledgeable pet store associate.
Even though he’s still young, your puppy will need to be groomed and learn how to behave during the process. His coat will need regular washing, combing and brushing. He’ll also need his toenails trimmed, his ears cleaned, and his teeth brushed. To be prepared for the grooming routine as soon as he comes home, have these grooming supplies ready and understand how to properly use them:
Store the above items in a plastic tote or container for easy access.
Your puppy will require some identification. While there are two options — identification (ID) tags and microchips — it’s a good idea to use them both.
An ID tag, which is a plastic or metal medallion that hangs from your pup’s collar, lists specific contact information that will reunite you with your dog should she run off. Some people include the dog’s name and their name, phone number, and address; others, for safety reasons, list only their name and phone number with no information about the dog. At the very least, list your name and the best way to contact you, whether it’s a cell phone, office phone, or home phone.
A microchip is a rice-sized device that contains a code that is stored in a database with your contact information. Your veterinarian injects the chip between your dog’s shoulder blades, and when your dog is found, a staff member at the shelter uses a handheld scanner to read the code in the microchip. The code is then entered into the database, which tells the shelter your name and phone number, so you and your dog can be reunited. Remember to take the time to register your contact information and keep it up to date.
Whether a stuffed lion, a squeaky octopus, or a treat-dispensing toy, puppies adore their playthings. Toys can be categorized into chew toys that satisfy the need to gnaw, like hard-rubber toys; plush toys, like stuffed animals, that provide comfort to dogs; fetching toys, like balls and flying discs; rope and tug toys, which help to floss teeth while the pup plays; and critical thinking toys, like treat-dispensing devices, that release goodies when the pup performs a certain task.
Despite all the toy choices at your local pet store, you should only offer your puppy strong, durable, well-made toys that are sized appropriately for him. If your puppy does destroy a toy (and he probably will!), remove the damaged toy immediately. Exposed squeakers can be dangerous, as are stuffing, frayed rope toy strands, and small torn-off pieces that can be ingested.
Purchase these products before your puppy comes home and set them up in advance — mostly because you’ll be too busy playing with him! With these items in hand, you’ll be well-prepared to welcome your puppy to his new forever home.