When you are bringing a new puppy or rescue dog home it can be difficult not to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of products available on the pet store shelves. Often you can come home with a car full of items, half of which you never even use.
We hope that this article gives you some pointers on the essential things your puppy will need and a few nice to haves too, helping you to stick with things that are actually going to benefit you and your puppy.
Here are some items that you shouldn’t come home without.
1. A Collar
So, this is kind of an obvious one, but some people get bogged down in the rows of different options. Make sure you pick a collar that is easy to adjust (your pup will grow quickly), lightweight (you don’t want it weighing them down), wide enough to be supportive and ideally inexpensive (they are likely to grow out of it quickly). Make sure the collar has a good, strong D-ring for attaching the leash and fitting an ID tag.
I normally recommend a traditional nylon collar with a buckle fastening as they have a lot of adjustability, are easy to come by, come in lots of fun designs and are easy to put on and take off. If you are looking for something strong, comfortable, and stylish then the Ruffwear brand is always well reviewed and their Hoopie Collar comes in a number of sizes and designs. It does have a lot of adjustability but if you think your pup will grow into a bigger size then it could be an expensive first collar choice.
We would never recommend using a choke or prong collar and this is particularly important with a new puppy that has less developed bones and muscles.
Picking a lightweight, adjustable, flat collar is important
2. A Leash
Again, lots of options to choose from. My personal favourite is an adjustable length training leash. This means that you have the option of closer control when near traffic or in a busy environment but you can also extend it out to give them more freedom and more enjoyable sniffing opportunities. The Company of Animals Halti Training Leash comes in two widths and is made from soft, comfortable webbing.
A standard 3 – 6 ft leash is another option. It is a personal choice what material you opt for; leather, nylon rope etc. Make sure that the leash is strong enough but that the trigger hook is not too heavy on a small puppies collar, otherwise it could weigh them down.
Some people opt for a retractable leash as this can give your dog an opportunity for more freedom whilst you are working on recall. If you do go for this option they need to be used with extreme care. They can easily give you a nasty burn if they are retracted quickly through your hands and if the locking mechanism fails it could prove fatal if you are near traffic. It is also easy to get tangled or to trip someone up when it is fully extended.
We have a full article available with more information on different leash options.
3. A Harness
A Harness is not a necessary purchase but I always recommend using them alongside a collar, particularly if you have a dog that pulls a lot, has a long thin neck (like a greyhound or whippet) or if you have a flat-faced, brachycephalic breed (like a pug or a bulldog), that may already have restricted breathing.
Make sure that you select a harness that, again, has lots of adjustability, is not too cumbersome, can be put on and taken off easily and that does not restrict your dog’s movement in any way.
The Ruffwear Front Range Harness is a popular choice in terms of its durability, comfortable fit and supportive style. If you have a large breed puppy it may be better to buy a less expensive traditional t-harness to start with to allow them to grow a bit before investing in a harness that will fit when they are an adult too.
We have a full article available with more information on selecting the right type of harness.
A well fitting harness with adjustability for growth is a good option to take the strain away from your puppies neck
4. An Identity Tag
While you will hopefully not have any problems with your puppy escaping or running away, it is always best to take precautions and ensure that you have an ID tag with all your current details ready to use as soon as your pup is ready to go out for walks. In some countries, a tag is a legal requirement.
Usually, the tag will include name, address (or part of it) and a telephone number.
Again, make sure the tag is not too heavy to hang around your pup’s neck. IThe Red Dingo ID Tags are well reviewed. They come in a wide variety of different designs, are available in three sizes and they offer a guarantee should the engraving fade.
It is also extremely important that you ensure your pup is microchipped and that the details are kept up to date. Without this, if your pup goes missing, it may be difficult for any rescuers to trace the dog back to you.
An up to date ID tag is important, and sometimes a legal requirement, for your dog. Make sure you pick something that is not going to weigh your pup down
5. A Bed
So, if you are planning to let your puppy sleep on your bed (yes, a lot of people do this), it is still a good idea to give them an option of their own space too.
Of course, if you wouldn’t dream of having a dog on your bed then it is even more important that they have their own comfy space from the start.
Some people opt to crate train their puppy and would put any bedding in there. If you do this you need to make sure that the bed is a snug fit and not too bulky, impeding crate access or height.
Whatever bed you go for, make sure that it is easy to wash and dry (just in case of any puppy accidents), and that it will allow for some room to grow without overwhelming your pup with the sheer size.
Every dog is different in terms of how they like to sleep. Some like to curl up, some like to lie out flat, some prefer to be super cozy and snuggled up in something. There may be a bit of trial and error in finding the best bed to suit your dog.
Our advice would be don’t spend a fortune, not only may you have a couple of shots finding one your dog likes most but, whilst they are teething, a lot of pups go through a phase of chewing on their bed and bigger breed dogs may go through a couple of sizes before they are fully grown.
If you do plan to let your dog on the sofa and/or your beds then you may also want to invest in some large blankets or throws to prevent dog hair and dirt gathering on your soft furnishings.
We have a full article available with more information on different bed options.
You may not want to invest in an expensive bed until you are sure your puppy has outgrown the chewy phase
6. Puppy Food
This is the one that often opens up the biggest can of worms. Finding a food that is good quality, won’t break the bank and works for your puppies digestion can be the thing that some people find the most challenging.
There is no absolute right or wrong with this and it is worth doing some research and making your own choice, whether you go for a dry kibble, a wet food, a raw food diet or home cooked. There is no one size fits all “best” food and what works for one dog may not work so well for another.
If you are feeding raw or home cooked it is incredibly important to ensure that your dog receives the appropriate amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. We would always recommend selecting a complete raw mix or seeking the advice of a qualified canine nutritionist to ensure that your pup will be getting everything they need.
Generally, we would recommend steering clear of supermarket brands with generic labelling. High quality doesn’t have to be high price tag but often the old adage of ‘you get what you pay’ can be true with the mega-budget foods.
When looking at labels, ideally, you want a quality named protein source to be the first ingredient, you don’t want lots of artificial colourings, flavourings or sweeteners.
For a puppy, you also want to make sure that you choose a puppy life stage diet to help them get the right balance for their growing bones.
See our article on choosing a dog food for more detailed information.
Picking a good quality, balanced puppy food is important. If the food is all different colours like the one above that is usually a sign that it is full of artificial colours and flavourings and should be avoided
Make sure that you have a separate food and water bowl for your pup. Don’t pick anything that is too big otherwise they may struggle to access it when they are just little.
Some of the choice when it comes to bowls is down to personal preference in terms of aesthetic but it is also worth considering some practicalities. If you choose a ceramic bowl, watch out for breakages. If you opt for stainless steel, some dogs can get a little freaked out by the noise the metal can make on the ground or by their reflection in the bottom. If you choose a plastic bowl, make sure it has a non-slip base to prevent it from sliding about the floor whilst your pup tries to eat.
If you have a puppy that gobbles their food down at a super fast pace and you want to help promote better digestion by slower eating, or you just want to offer more enrichment, then you could consider a slow feeding bowl. These are great for making your dog work more for their meal. A popular choice is the range from Outward Hound. They come in a range of colours and designs and there are two size options.
You may also want to get a mat for putting under the bowls to save any spillages on your flooring.
See our article on choosing a dog bowl for more detailed information.
Make sure that you pick bowls that are the right size and that are easy to clean and won’t slip around on the floor
8. Training Treats
You want to hit the ground running in terms of training from as soon as your pup arrives home. Reinforcing the behaviour you want to see from your pup through positive rewards is the best way to help your dog understand what you want from them, to build a strong bond and have a puppy that is motivated to work for you.
Making sure you have some super tasty training available is really important. Make sure you pick something high quality, that are small or easy to break into small pieces for frequent reward and that you have a selection of options so that your dog doesn’t get bored. The Cloud Star Tricky Trainers Chewy Treats are an example of a popular and high-quality mini treat option.
Training treats are a really important part of the toilet training process, don’t forget to go armed with lots of tasty rewards whenever you take your pup out in the garden to go potty.
See our article about good training treat options for more detailed information.
Tasty, high quality treats that can be chopped into small pieces are really important for rewarding desired behaviours
9. Appropriate Parasite Preventatives
It is really important that your dog is appropriately treated for parasites. Any good breeder or rescue shelter will have already treated your pup for worms and sometimes even for fleas. It is important to check with them what, if any, treatment was received, and when it was administered.
Regular worming and flea treatments can help to prevent nasty infestations going forward.
There are a variety of over-the-counter, vet prescribed and herbal remedy options available. Everyone has their own preference in terms of what to opt for. Vet prescribed treatments have usually had the most rigorous testing so are likely to be the most effective but there are some brands that can have controversial side effects so it is always best to do your research. There are some over-the-counter options that will likely not be so well tested or effective and some of them can cause bad reactions or are not safe for other pets. Again, always do your research. Herbal remedies negate the use of potentially harsh chemicals but their efficacy is mixed at best and closer monitoring will be required to prevent problems arising.
The Seresto Collar is a popular option for flea and tick prevention. It does not involve any chemicals entering the bloodstream, it lasts up to 8 months and it is proven to be very effective.
For more detailed information on the pros and cons of some of the treatments available see our article on flea prevention.
You need to consider flea treatments for your new dog
10. Some Safe and Interactive Toys
Puppies have lots of energy, like to chew and need plenty of stimulation. Making sure that they get enough appropriate exercise, social interactions and training is super important but it is also important to give them other options for enrichment too. Having a selection of safe, durable and interactive toys can be great to give you a break, offer a distraction or redirection when needed and just to make sure that your pup is further mentally enriched.
Every dog is different with how destructive they are and in terms of what they like to play with. You may have a bit of trial and error. Having a few good toy options to start with can be really useful and then you can grow your dog’s toy repertoire once you find out what gives them the most satisfaction.
a) A Plush Toy
Some dogs will baby soft toys and they act as a comforter for them, others love to rag them around, some though just have one mission with a soft toy and that is to destroy it.
Pick a soft toy that does not have any hard appendages that could be chewed and cause a choking hazard, make sure the stuffing is an appropriate fibre filling (bean bags toys are not good), and go for a good brand so that the toy has more chance of surviving light chewing. No plush toy will survive a lot of chewing though so be prepared for lots of sewing or some going in the trash.
The Tuffy range of soft toys are one of the more robust out there but they do have a steep price tag. They are not going to work for a power chewer but, if your dog does like to nibble on a plush toy then this may be worth the investment.
Some puppies love playing with soft toys but if they are a power chewer they are unlikely to last for long
b) A Treat Toy, or Two
We think treat toys should be in every doggy gear arsenal. Once you get your pup into using them they can be so useful. If you pick a good brand they can be extremely robust and safe to leave your pup with them in a crate or when you are out, they can keep them occupied for a long time if creatively stuffed, they are mentally enriching and they help to satisfy your puppies naturally desire to chew in an appropriate way.
You can’t beat a Classic Kong and some of the range from West Paw Designs, like the Tux, are also super robust.
Having a couple of different options means you are giving your dog a different challenge with each one and helps to keep them even more stimulated.
See our detailed article for more ideas for safe interactive toys for your dog.
Safe chew toys are a great option to redirect your puppies desire to chew away from fingers and clothes
11. Poop Bags
So, this one may seem obvious but, if you are a first-time dog owner it is often the one that is forgotten. Don’t forget to stuff your bag and pockets with them so you are never caught short. I prefer ones with handles for ease of tying after the deed is done but some people like the ones on a roll, these can fit into a handy dispenser that can fit on a leash.
Make sure you opt for at least biodegradable but, if you want to be especially environmentally friendly, then pick compostable poop bags.
Once you find a bag that you like, buy in bulk to save money, it is one thing you will always need a supply of! If you are buying compostable though, don’t buy more than a years supply otherwise they may start to perish.
Poop bags are an essential for all dog owners, no matter how off putting the task might be
12. Appropriate Grooming Tools
For short haired breeds that have minimal shedding, you may not need to rush out for any grooming tools but there will be breeds that will need to have their coat attended to from day one.
Regardless, it is good practice to start a grooming regime with your dog from the start so that they become accustomed to the handling and examination.
A soft puppy brush is often a good starting point but, depending on their coat, you may also need a comb, a slicker brush, a grooming mitt or a deshedding product like a furminator.
Making sure you have nail clippers or a nail file or grinder is sensible too and start getting your dog used to having their nails examined in advance of any clipping that might be required.
You may even end up investing in your own grooming table and clippers but you don’t want to get ahead of yourself!
See our article on grooming tips for further information.
13. Appropriate Equipment for Safe Car Travel
If you have a car and your dog will be travelling in it, then it is extremely important that they are appropriately restrained or secured for any journey. In some countries it is illegal to let them roam loose and, regardless, it is dangerous for your dog and for you and other passengers if they are left to their own devices.
Some people, like me, opt to use a crate. Providing you have introduced the crate in the right way, so that your dog is relaxed going into it, it offers a safe and secure space and also affords a good level of comfort too.
You could also consider using a harness that is suitable for use in the car with a restraint that attaches to the seat belt. If you do go for this option make sure that it is one that has been strain tested, like the Kurgo Car Harness, and that fits well and gives your dog enough freedom to move at the same time as keeping them in place securely.
See our article on more tips for keeping your dog safe and happy on a car journey.
Your dog needs to be properly secured of restrained when in the car for their safety and yours
The items listed below are not essential but they are often really useful additions to your first doggy shopping list.
14. Puppy Pads
Puppy pads are not essential but, for some people, they can be a useful extra. In theory, if you are super vigilant looking for the signs that a pup needs to potty, get into a strict regime for getting them outside and use a crate through the night, you may be able to avoid your pup having many accidents in the house. Puppy pads can sometimes mean that you will have a slightly longer process when transitioning them to toileting outside completely but then at least they may have pottied on the pad rather than on your floor or carpet.
If you want a cheaper alternative to puppy pads (and one that is more environmentally friendly), why not use old newspapers. You just need to watch that the print does not transfer onto carpets or fabrics and that you use enough to fully soak up any urine.
See our detailed article on potty training your dog for more tips.
Newspapers can be a cheaper alternative to puppy pads
15. Training Crate
Again, not an essential, but a dog crate can be an extremely useful training tool and place for your pup to relax, if introduced in a positive and appropriate way. It can help your pup master toilet training more quickly and mean they are more likely to stay dry through the night. It can also be useful for safe transportation in the car.
If you want to pick a crate that your pup can grow into then you may also want to purchase a divider so that the crate can be made smaller whilst they are still very young. If the crate is to too large, they may be more inclined to sleep in one side and use the other side as a potty area.
Always make sure that you introduce the use of a crate gradually and with lots of positive reinforcement. It should never be used as a punishment tool or as a place to put your dog just to get them out of the way.
For more tips on teaching your dog how to love a crate and further information on when it is appropriate to use it check out our crate training article.
16. A Long Line
Whilst you are working on teaching your puppy a solid recall, if you want to give them more freedom to explore then a long line can be an extremely useful tool. It is also great to use to help when you are doing the recall training as it stops your pup running off whilst you are still practising.
If you are using a long line, always make sure that your dog is wearing a harness and that it is not attached to a collar. If your dog was to run to the end of the line at top speed they could seriously injure their neck or back with the strain put on their neck. The harness distributes the weight over a sturdier part of the body.
A long line is best used in a wide open space to avoid it being caught up in any trees or other obstacles and care must be taken if using it around other people or dogs as it could become tangled.
A favourite is the Company of Animals Long Line. It comes in a 5-metre and 10-metre length and it is made of soft, lightweight nylon. The 5-metre length is usually long enough unless you plan to use it for scent work or something similar.
For more information on helping ensure you do not have a wayward puppy see our article on mastering recall training.
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17. A Clicker
We always recommend training using positive reinforcement. It is a much kinder approach, strengthens your bond with your dog and has been scientifically proven to be more effective than harsher, old school aversives methods.
A clicker is a great tool for helping you to give your dog a clear signal of when they are doing something right. Whenever your dog does something that you like, you “click” as soon as they offer the behaviour and follow this up immediately with a food reward Your dog will quickly start to understand that the click signifies that they will get a reward so they will be keen to replicate whatever gets them that reward.
The I-Click is one of the most popular designs of Clickers, made by world-renowned clicker trainer Karen Pryor.
See our Clicker Training article for more information on how to master the technique.
18. Stain and Odor Remover
Even if you are really dedicated and vigilant with your pup’s toilet training regime, occasional accidents will likely still occur in the early days of bringing your puppy home. Never scold your puppy for doing the toilet indoors. They will likely not associate the telling off with the behaviour and it is much kinder and more effective to heavily reward the behaviour you do want instead.
It is important to effectively clean the area that the accident occurred in. Not only is it more hygienic but it will reduce the risk of your dog returning to the same spot again. A lot of standard household cleaners may not be safe for use around a puppy and they often do not completely eradicate the smell.
Always select a doggy safe stain and odor remover, ideally one that contains enzymes that will help completely remove the smell.
Some people swear by a home remedy solution of one part white vinegar to one part water. Pour the solution over the urine and leave it for ten minutes. At this point dab up the excess water with paper towels and then sprinkle a light dusting of baking soda over the area and leave it to absorb for fifteen minutes. Make sure that you then thoroughly hoover up the excess baking soda and you should be good to go!
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19. A Training Treat Pouch
If you are going to take the puppy training seriously, you will always want to be armed with a supply of tasty treats, ready to reward any behaviour that you want to reinforce. If you are doing a particular training session you may need to be ready to offer lots of rewards in quick-fire succession.
Having a training treat pouch allows you easy access, saves your pockets getting smelly and greasy and when your dog sees the pouch coming out they know that it is time to work and the treats will be on their way!
The Doggone Good Rapid Reward Treat Pouch is a popular choice for being durable, functional and versatile.
20. Some Puppy Appropriate Chews
Alongside some great interactive treat toys, it can be useful to have some longer lasting, puppy-safe dog chews. They can be great for redirecting chewy puppy teeth, they can work well for helping to get your dog to settle in a crate or quietly in a new environment and they can be a great distraction for your pup when needed.
It is important to pick something that does not present a high risk of blockage or choking, that is easy to digest and that is healthy. Every pup is different with how much of a power chewer they are and some chews will last longer for some pups than others. Always be sure to supervise your pup when they have an edible chew. Bully Sticks are a popular choice with a lot of owners.
For more suggestions for suitable options and some to steer clear of, see our best dog chews article.
A good quality dog chew can be a great thing to help encourage your puppy to settle
21. Puppy Appropriate Shampoo
While you should not bathe your dog too often as it can strip their coat of its natural oils, an occasional bath is likely going to be required. Getting your dog used to the bath or shower area, or wherever you plan to do it, is good to start from an early age. It is also important that you get a good quality shampoo that is designed for dogs. Human shampoos can contain ingredients that may irritate their skin.
Puppies will inevitably need a bath at some point, so it is important that you get a gentle doggy shampoo. Using human shampoo could irritate your dog’s skin
22. Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Periodontal Disease, a bacterial infection of the teeth/gums, is the most common disease in adult dogs. We often neglect our dog’s dental hygiene without even realising that it is a problem. It is always recommended to start a good routine with looking after your dog’s teeth from an early age. While a puppy will lose their baby teeth, it is still a good idea to start a daily tooth brushing from the start, that way, they will quickly become accustomed to it and it will be easier to give a thorough clean when their adult teeth come in.
It is important to pick a doggy specific toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothbrush will not be too hard and the toothpaste will be non-foaming, often in a meat flavour that your dog will enjoy, and it will be free from ingredients that are potentially dangerous to dogs. Some human kinds of toothpaste contain an ingredient called Xylitol and this is incredibly toxic to dogs. A good enzymatic dog toothpaste like the Petrodex Toothpaste for dogs is a popular choice.
See our article on doggy dental care for more information.
Don’t Forget to do Your Research About Other Resources Too
It is also important to do some forward planning for other things you may need to organise.
A lot of good puppy classes can book up months in advance. If you are going to attend classes always make sure they are run by a well regarded, qualified instructor that promote positive training techniques.
Are there a few vets nearby? We would recommend selecting one that promotes low stress handling techniques and will be happy to work gently and patiently with your dog. A bad initial experience in a vet for your puppy can create a lifelong fear.
Dog Walker/Day Care
Will you need your dog looked after during the day? Good dog walkers can book up quickly too. Again do your research to make sure that they do not walk too many dogs at once, that they will be respectful of your requests (such as keeping them on lead if their recall is not reliable), that they are aware of and promote positive training techniques. Doggy daycare will not be for every dog, but if you do have a sociable pup that you think would enjoy the company of other dogs through the day then make sure the daycare facility allows you to visit, does not have too many dogs in one space, is well supervised, has puppies separate to large adult dogs and that they will let you know if your dog is not settling.
If you have any holidays planned without your puppy then it is important to get organised with arrangements for this too. Good Boarders usually book up quickly. If you are not fortunate enough to have a family member that can step in then you may need to consider kennels or home-boarding. My preference is for home boarding. If your dog is not used to a kennel environment then, no matter how well run the establishment is, your dog may find the unfamiliarity stressful.
Always make sure that wherever you book holds the appropriate licenses and certificates, is respectful of your dog’s needs and requirements, does not have too many dogs in the one space and that they are well regarded in the wider doggy community.