Congrats, you're expecting! Well, a puppy.
There is so much information out there.. How am I supposed to know what is necessary, what is unnecessary, so many options, I don't want to screw up my puppy! This list is a straightforward, no sugar-coating, quick compilation of what you need to do before you bring your puppy home.
1. Find a trainer FIRST!
This might ring hollow coming from a training company's website, I get that. However, hiring your trainer before your puppy comes home is the best thing you could ever do for yourself and your family. When your puppy steps foot in your house for the first time, your brain will instantly flood you with questions.
Should I give him a treat for that?
Oh shoot, should I have put the cat away?
Don't overwhelm her, kids! Or should we just get her used to it ASAP?
Crap, she's itching her collar. Is this fleas? Should I take the collar off for now?
If you're anything like me, this sounds incredibly familiar. A trainer is an incredibly valuable resource, and you'll be able to rest easy knowing an expert is there to answer all of your questions.
2. Find a Veterinarian
Ask your friends and family for veterinarian recommendations, if you do not already have a designated veterinarian. As a trainer, I always look for a vet that meets a few simple criteria:
Does the entire vet office practice fear-free handling as often as possible (I'd rather my vet use peanut butter or spray cheese to keep my puppy occupied during vaccines instead of pinning the puppy down to keep her still)?
Will the vet allow me to remain in the room the entire time my puppy is being handled?
Will the vet allow me to do "happy visits" weekly where all the employees give my puppy treats and affection (this ensures vet visits are fun and not associated with vaccines or other uncomfortable things)?
Are their services within my budget?
3. Buy the necessities
There's actually a lot less than you might think! We'll break this down into a few categories.
Crate: The crate must be the appropriate size for your puppy. It should be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn in a circle, and lay down. If your puppy has enough room to poop on one side and sleep on the other side, he WILL.
X-Pen: This is the doggie version of a "play pen," easily found on Amazon or Chewy.com. It is important to have a way to sequester your dog away from the rest of the family or house when needed.
Baby Gate(s): No puppy should have free roam of the house at first! Choose a small portion of the house, such as the kitchen or living room, to contain your puppy. Your puppy may only have access to the other parts of the house in small bursts, not 24/7.
Collar: Okay, this is where I like to splurge a little bit. I love to get a fancy collar for a new puppy, and I'm usually okay spending a little bit of money for my pup to look extra cute. Try going to Etsy before your puppy comes home and look for some handmade collars between 6"-10", depending on your puppy's breed. Shop small businesses!
Leash: Although it may seem tempting to get that cool retractable leash, we advise against it. Retractable leashes are unsafe and unreliable, and have resulted in many injuries for dogs and people. Try a standard 6 foot leash, don't get too expensive with it. Chances are it will end up with quite a few teeth marks soon anyway.
Food: Be sure to choose a good quality food for your budget. A good rule of thumb: do not buy any dog food that can be found at Walmart. If you need a low cost food, look into Taste of the Wild, found at Tractor Supply, and other places. If you can afford a good quality, medium-budget-range food, try Fromm Puppy. Anything with the word "chow" in it is not a good quality food.
Food Bowls: Forego the food bowl! Feed your puppy in more creative ways. This is single best possible way to teach your puppy how to problem solve from an easily age. Sprinkle food into a muffin tin. Use a Kong Wobbler. Better yet, use your puppy's meals for training sessions!
Water Bowl: When possible, opt for a stainless steel water bowl. They are the most sanitary. Wash the water bowl a couple of times per week.
Treats: Instead of buying lots of expensive treats, go to the freezer section in Walmart and look for a yellow bag called Bil-Jac. It comes in 5 lb bags, and dogs absolutely love it for training. It is only $8 in most places, and you will get so much more bang for your buck! If you cannot find the yellow Bil-Jac bags, buy some big packages of string cheese and hot dogs and dice them into tiny pieces for training treats.
Stuffed Toys: When buying stuffed toys, be SURE they are marketed for animal use. Anything in the pet section of a store is safe. Although it might be tempting, do not purchase a stuffed toy for your puppy that is meant for a human child. The US Government requires child toys have some flame retardants built into them that are toxic for dogs. Sherpa dog toys tend to be quite durable.
Mentally Stimulating Toys: Toys like the IQ ball are great to put some dog food into and watch your puppy roll it around the house!
Chews: Anything that once came from a real animal is usually going to be the most appetizing for your puppy. Bully sticks, cow hooves, bison horns, and pig ears are all puppy favorites.
What to Avoid: AVOID RAWHIDE. It causes blockages. AVOID ROPE TOYS. The tiny strings can seriously damage your dog's digestive tract. AVOID HUMAN CHILD TOYS. The built-in flame retardants are toxic. AVOID stuffing any mentally stimulating toys with peanut butter that contains Xylitol. Xylitol is a toxic artificial sweetener that is safe for humans, but deadly for dogs.
4. Puppy Proof Your Home
Puppy proofing is very similar to child-proofing! Make sure your puppy will have limited access to anything dangerous, like kitchen utensils, electric cords, chemicals, etc.
Set up your puppy's "home." Decide which part of the house the puppy will be contained in most of the time. If it is the kitchen/dining area, set up the crate in this area, and all necessary x-pens or baby gates. Puppy should have access to water during daytime hours in this area. Provide lots of bully sticks and toys in this area to keep puppy occupied.
From a training perspective, it is very convenient to set up "treat stations" around the house and have a few leashes around the house, just in case.
That's really pretty much it! We hope this list helps you filter through the mountains of information out there. Bringing home a puppy is really quite simple. And remember, if you need our help, we are available for Virtual Private Lessons to anyone in the US!