I’m a New Puppy Parent—Here’s Everything I’m Buying to Prepare
Before you welcome your new pup, make sure you have everything you need for a smooth transition with our new puppy checklist.
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So you’re becoming a dog parent. Congrats! Welcoming home a furry little bundle of joy is hands down one of the most exciting life moments. And we understand this process is equally overwhelming as it is exciting.
As someone who recently welcomed home their first puppy, the tiniest, fluffiest mini Aussiedoodle, I had a lot to accomplish before bringing her home. Obviously, I had to have basic supplies like dog food and dog toys. But how do you know what’s essential for the first several weeks, and what can wait a few months?
To help myself and fellow puppy and dog parents prepare for this life transition, I talked to Kristi Snyder, DVM and relief veterinarian in Phoenix, Arizona. I also spoke with Emme Hones, a pet behavior specialist for the SPCA, to better understand what products are really essential from day one. These pet experts also offered priceless training advice that eased any anxiety before picking up my new pup. Whether it’s your first puppy or your fifth, here’s our new puppy checklist guide on the essential pet products you need from day one.
One of the first things to check off your new puppy checklist is your pup’s very own spot to sleep and stay when you run errands or go to work. “Crate training your pup gives them a space where they can feel safe and secure,” says Dr. Snyder. “It can also help with potty training.”
Crate training ultimately comes down to personal preference, but it’s highly recommended to keep them out of trouble when you can’t supervise them. For me, I wanted an equally practical and stylish dog crate to control my pup’s environment. After thorough research, I decided on the Diggs Revol Crate for its ease of use and modern features. The diamond-shaped mesh screen keeps dogs safe and secure, while the garage door-esque side opening makes it easy and comfortable to crate train your pet. Bonus: It collapses for easy traveling. Speaking of, check out the Diggs Enventur inflatable crate if you travel often.
Whether or not you travel often, your pup is going to need a way to be safely transported—at the very least, to and from the vet. I was in the middle of a cross country move when I welcomed my pup home. I also travel a lot to see friends, family and to vacation, and wanted a convenient way to bring my pup with me until she gets too big. I researched the best dog travel carriers before deciding on the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier in size medium. I’m not loyal to a specific airline, so a travel carrier that meets every airline’s pet travel carrier requirements was a must. The Sherpa pet carrier (in small and medium only) boasts a “Guaranteed On-Board” certification and checks every airline’s pet travel requirements (trust me, I checked like ten times). Plus, it offers ventilation on the sides, a handy storage pocket and adjustable shoulder strap. I’ve since traveled on Delta and Southwest airlines without any issue thanks to this travel carrier.
Controlling your new dog’s environment is super important in the first several weeks, and they’ll need a little extra play space outside of their crate to hang out in during the day. “I love the idea of a playpen to keep your puppy safe and secure when you cannot watch him or her immediately,” says Dr. Snyder. “Puppies tend to be mischievous by nature as they explore their environment, and keeping them confined to a playpen when you cannot directly watch over them is best to keep them out of trouble.”
Over 6,000 Amazon shoppers give this playpen with adjustable panels high marks for its ease of assembly and durable materials. Suitable for indoor or outdoor use, the size is customizable to best fit your dog’s needs while offering a somewhat open view to see their surroundings while inside.
Don’t forget to add something cozy to their crate and playpen! The variety of best dog beds to choose from can be overwhelming. After reading our Executive Shopping Editor’s rave review of a calming donut dog bed, I felt confident my new mini Aussiedoodle would find comfort in it for years to come. I snagged this 24-inch calming donut bed in pink for its affordable price tag, rave reviews and size variety (it goes up to 36-inches!). Though it has taken some getting used to, my pup loves resting her head on the raised outer cushioning. Rewarding her with treats every time she lays in it has also helped her get use to it. She sinks right into the plush bed—it’s seriously so adorable to watch her rest. By the way, check out these cooling dog beds to beat the summer heat.
Don’t forget to add pee pads to your new puppy checklist! “Pee pads alone don’t train puppies, but they can be a convenient option for very young pups who don’t have a lot of bladder control yet, or dogs who have to travel a long distance to get outside, such as folks in high-rise apartments,” says Hones. There’s also reusable pee pads if you prefer to wash them instead of throwing out a disposable pad every time. I line my pup’s crate and travel carrier with these disposable pee pads. They’re also helpful for the occasional midnight potty time when I don’t want to walk down three floors to the street.
As a first-time dog parent, I was extremely overwhelmed by all the puppy food options. Is wet or dry food better? Better yet, how do I know what’s the best dog food for small dogs? “Most puppies over the age of eight weeks should be able to manage well with dry food,” says Dr. Snyder. “I personally do feel there’s an added dental benefit to the mechanical action of chewing hard food that helps break down tartar. There are so many diets out on the market, I generally recommend sticking to a company that has been around for a long time and has research to back their nutrition.”
Dr. Snyder also recommends feeding puppies three times a day to avoid hypoglycemia (aka low blood sugar, which can lead to weakness or, if more severe, puppies collapsing). With a lot of talk on grain-free dog diets, I was also interested to get her honest thoughts: “Currently, most vets recommend staying away from grain-free diets due to a known association with heart disease. Most dogs don’t require a grain-free diet unless a severe allergy has been documented (grain allergies in dogs are rare), and feeding one to a dog who does not require it can be harmful and even deadly in some cases,” says Dr. Snyder.
After thorough research, I landed on Purina Puppy Chow. Purina is a household name in dog food, AAFCO-approved and fairly affordable, so I felt confident knowing my puppy is getting all the necessary nutrients. Pro tip: My pup loves when I top it with bone broth or wet puppy food!
Food and Water Bowl
Once the puppy food is secured, you have to find a spot for your pet to eat it! This part really comes down to personal preference and special features, like if you prefer an elevated dog food bowl or a no-spill water bowl. Because my puppy is less than 10 pounds and fairly short, I decided on this ceramic dog food and water bowl. The wood stand makes it non-slip, and I love the timeless aesthetic of the bowls. Plus, crumbs and stains slide right off the ceramic components. Pro tip: Slip one of these DogBuddy mats under the bowls to prevent spillage on the carpet or kitchen floor.
What’s the difference between a regular treat and a training treat, you ask? “Training treats should be small so your puppy can get many repetitions without many calories, and should be of high-value to them so the puppy is motivated to work for the treat,” says Hones.
While I often train my pup with just her puppy chow, I also snagged these soft puppy bites to make potty training and walk training more exciting. They come highly-rated from fellow pet parents and designed to be used as training treats. I like to break them up into tiny pieces so she can eat several at a time without overdoing it. And she goes nuts for the lamb and salmon flavor!
Collar and Leash
Just like all pet products, there are so many collars and leashes to choose from. But the most important feature to look for is the proper size for your puppy, and an adjustable collar for them to grow into. Available in four sizes and boasting an adjustable length, I secured this Diggs collar and leash set for its durability and range of color options (my pup wears the lilac). Bonus: It comes with a dog poop bag dispenser that hooks right onto the leash.
Perhaps the second most important item to have for your pup from day one (besides their food or collar) is an ID tag. “ID tags should always be worn in case your pet gets out,” says Dr. Snyder. There are ones that jingle and jangle and silent ID tags. For puppies, it may be best to choose one that jingles so you always know where they are. But if you prefer a silent tag (like me), head on over to Etsy to design your own. There’s also the high tech Apple air tag, if you’re fancy like that.
This dog tag from Etsy shop CookiePetTag is super customizable and securely slips onto my pup’s collar. Personalize it with your dog’s name, your phone number or address and the embellishment of your choice.
I can’t stress this enough, a harness has been a life-saver for training my pup on walks. Puppies are curious—especially outside—so I prefer a harness on long walks versus just her collar because it avoids pulling her neck and potentially hurting her. My mini Aussiedoodle wears this Wisedog harness in extra small. The rainbow of color options and numerous leash hook points on the harness is the cherry on top.
One of the most important parts of being a responsible dog parent—and practicing proper etiquette at the dog park—is always picking up after your pup. As Amazon’s highest-rated dog poop bags, these Earth Rated waste bags come in unscented and lavender-scented options. Plus, you get 120-270 bags in each order (depending on the size you choose), so they’ll last you well through the first several weeks of puppyhood.
Because your puppy is likely teething when you pick them up, it’s important to have a variety of toys to soothe their teeth and gums—and to keep playtime interesting. “Having at least one Nylabone-style hard chew, a Kong-like heavy rubber toy, and a canvas or other sturdy cloth toy is a good starter set,” says Hones.
And that’s exactly what I bought for my mini Aussiedoodle: A Nylabone teething toy that turns cold in the freezer to soothe gums and teeth, a puppy-friendly Kong teething binkie that doubles as an enrichment toy, and a too-cute-to-pass-up “White Paw” plush toy. My pup especially loves toys, and she can’t resist the soothing cold touch of the Nylabone teething toy.
Calming Sleep Toy
A fellow puppy mom introduced me to the Snuggle Puppy, and let me tell you, it’s a game-changer for a restful night’s sleep for you and your dog. Complete with a heartbeat that reminds your pup of their mom and litter mates, the Snuggle Puppy is their best friend during their puppy phase. I turn the heartbeat on right before bed time (it stays on all night!), and my pup finds solace in this comforting sleep toy by resting her head on it every night. Seriously, the picture is exactly how she sleeps every night (until she’s comfortable enough to turn on her back and sleep belly up, that is).
Psst, there’s a purring toy for cats, too.
No matter how hard you try, puppies are prone to accidents during the potty training phase (and even after)—and that’s okay. Be patient, and snag an enzymatic cleaner to nip repeated accidents in the bud.
“Enzymatic cleaners are good for thoroughly removing lingering urine or feces scents, even faint ones that our human noses might not detect but a powerful puppy nose can,” says Hones. “This can reduce confusion for the puppy. If an area smells like a bathroom to the pup, they will use it as such.”
Boasting a whopping 104,000 ratings, I snagged the Rocco & Roxie Stain & Odor Eliminator. This enzymatic pet stain remover destroys ammonia crystals and organic matter at the source while removing any lingering smells. Plus, it boasts the seal of approval from the Carpet and Rug Institute as a safe solution for carpets, pets, kids and everyone, really. Though my pup has the occasional accident, she never marks the same spot, and I can’t tell where the accident happened after using this hard-working cleaner. And if you’re having trouble locating your pup’s accidents before they’ve been cleaned, there’s a UV urine detector flashlight for that!
It also doesn’t hurt to grab a bottle of Angry Orange Odor Eliminator in case of crate or playpen mishaps—or accidents on upholstery that need a layer of fresh orange scent. Just a few spritzes of this solution goes a long way, and I personally love the clean citrus smell on areas where my pup has had an accident. But don’t take my word for it! Read our Deputy Shopping Editor’s Angry Orange Odor Eliminator review for the full scoop.
Dr. Snyder and Hones both agree it’s important to start introducing some sort of dental care to get your pup used to touching their mouth in a positive way. “Puppies will have juvenile dentition until approximately five to six months of age,” says Dr. Snyder. “I don’t generally recommend brushing during this time as pups are teething and may experience the attempt to brush as painful. I do, however, think pet parents can start getting puppies used to a dental routine by introducing pet-specific toothpaste, allowing your puppy to lick it off of your finger or gently rubbing it along their gums.”
I opted for this puppy cleaning gel to start introducing dental care to my mini Aussiedoodle. The set comes with a toothbrush and finger brush that I’ll use once she’s a bit older. For now, I let her lick the cleaning gel off my fingers to manually spread on her gums and teeth. And she doesn’t seem to mind it! “Once your pup’s adult teeth are settled into his or her mouth, brushing at least three times per week is ideal,” says Dr. Snyder.”
Puppies really don’t need a full body bath until they’re older than eight weeks, and even then they only need baths every four to eight weeks. Still, securing a puppy-safe shampoo from day one will set you up for success. They grow up fast, after all! As for which puppy shampoo you choose, we suggest asking your vet for their recommendations first.
“I may be biased here, but I strongly recommend obtaining a puppy shampoo from your veterinarian,” says Dr. Snyder. “Dogs’ skin have different pH requirements than ours, and many over the counter shampoos are too acidic which can leave your pup’s skin irritated and susceptible to bacteria, yeast and topical parasites. Even if your puppy does not require a medical grade shampoo, your vet should be able to recommend a basic gentle cleanser that is safe for his or her skin.”
I asked my vet for her recommendation during one of my pup’s recent check ups. She confirmed any shampoo that is labeled puppy-safe is a safe bet, and she didn’t have any strong opinions about a certain brand. I opted for a bottle of TropiClean Gentle Coconut Hypoallergenic Shampoo for its affordability, puppy-safe ingredients and fresh coconut smell. My pup just had her first bath this week (she’s just over 12 weeks old) and it left her wavy fur so soft.
Between frequent outings, rainy weather and walking on dirty city streets, a paw cleaner was a no-brainer. After watching satisfying videos of pet parents cleaning their dogs’ paws with the Dandylion foaming cleanser, I added the bottle to my Amazon cart immediately. I like the convenient, no-rinse formula that gets paws cleaner than just water. Just wipe it off with a towel! I clean my pup’s paws with it on rainy days—and once or twice a week in between—and it removes so much grime. In the meantime, I also have eyes on the ever popular Mudbuster paw cleaner.
A brush is one of several dog grooming supplies recommended by experts, and it doesn’t hurt to have it from day one to prevent matting and tangles. My mini Aussiedoodle loves being brushed with this Hartz combo brush, and over 20,000 Amazon reviewers seem to agree! It’s safe for most coat types, and the two-sided nylon bristles and stainless steel pins is hard to beat.
It’s safe to clip your puppy’s nails starting as early as six weeks. Depending on how old they are when you bring them home, it’s important to secure a good pair of nail clippers to keep their nails safe and healthy. These vet-recommended nail clippers are easy to hold and made of surgical stainless steel for efficient cutting. Plus, they have an open clipping part (as opposed to a closed circle or guillotine style) making them ultra-safe for pets. It certainly takes some getting used to when clipping your pup’s nails, but it’s key for maintaining healthy hygiene habits.
Sure, there are countless more items you can get for your new puppy or dog, but rest assured that this new puppy checklist will certainly get you through the first several weeks and even years of their life. I’ve had my pup for just over one month and ended up buying a few more things not included on this list simply because I wanted them (looking at you, portable dog water bottle). This is an exciting time that comes with a lot of considerations, so just be patient, be kind to yourself and your new puppy will be on their way to adulthood in no time!
- Kristi Snyder, DVM, relief veterinarian in Phoenix, Arizona
- Emme Hones, pet behavior program manager at SPCA of Tompkins County
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