There’s nothing like a puppy. Wriggly, playful, snuggly and carefree, puppies of all mixes and breeds bring joy to just about every household — and they also bring with them a shopping list, particularly if it’s your first dog.
I’ll never forget the day my husband and I adopted our first puppy. It was a warm Sunday afternoon, and we stopped by our local humane society after running some errands. While walking alongside the dog kennels, we spied a white ball of fur with brindle-colored ears wagging his little tail. His name was Pete (short for “Repeat” because they had to wash his white coat so often), and he was a 6-month-old hound mix.
We instantly fell in love. An hour later, we walked out of the shelter with a bouncing baby dog in a cardboard box — but we weren’t prepared for this spontaneous and serendipitous adoption. At the time, we shared our home with two indoor cats, so we had plenty of cat products. A puppy product, however, was not to be found.
Before we headed home, we stopped by our favorite pet store for supplies. We knew Petey would need the basics, like food, a collar and leash, some toys and a bed. But we didn’t realize how many other products were available to enhance his life with us. Several hundred dollars later, we headed home with our new little love and a trunk full of goodies.
Whether you’re a new puppy parent or one who’s raised a dog or two, a list like this can help lead you through the puppy product shopping experience.
Out-And-About Supplies For Puppies
An important part of raising a healthy puppy is socializing him, says dog behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, ACVA, ACVB, director of animal behavior clinic at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Massachusetts — and what better way to do that than putting a collar and leash on him and taking him around town!
“The idea of socialization is to acclimate the young pup to people of different ages, sizes, genders, colors and deportment while the window of rapid learning and acceptance is still wide open,” Dodman explains. “During weeks 8 through 14 and beyond, they should be exposed, under pleasant circumstances and with positive consequences, to people and animals of all sorts.”
Walking to the dog park, visiting with other dogs and humans, driving to the pet store and going to the veterinarian are just a few things you’ll want to do with your pup. Excursions like these require specific supplies.
1. Collar And Harness: A collar attaches to a leash and holds your dog’s licensing tag and ID tag (see below), which lists your contact information should he ever get lost. A harness also attaches to a leash, but instead of looping around his neck, it loops around his shoulders and torso, putting pressure on his body rather than his neck. A harness doesn’t give you as much control as a collar, but you can generally use them interchangeably.
For your dog’s first few collars and harnesses, pick up an adjustable nylon type with a buckle. Find the right size collar by either measuring the diameter of your pup’s neck (or torso, if a harness) and adding 2 inches for some growing room, or taking your dog to the pet store to try some on him. Plan to buy several collars and/or harnesses as your pup grows.
2. Leash: A leash gives you control of your puppy during walks or obedience training. When you select a leash, make sure the attachment to the collar is secure, and choose one with a strong and comfortable loop for your hand. Leashes, which often coordinate with collars and harnesses, vary in length, style and materials, including nylon, hemp, cotton, leather and vinyl. For your puppy’s first few leashes, choose a 4-foot nylon, cotton webbing or leather variety.
3. ID Tag And Microchip: Dangling visibly on your puppy’s collar, an ID tag will help reunite you with your pal if he runs off. It should include information about your dog and you, such as your pup’s name and your name and contact info. Tag styles include plastic, engraved metal and reflective varieties in all shapes, sizes and colors. You can order them from your veterinarian or purchase them at your local pet store or online retailer.
A tiny microchip is another way of identifying your puppy should you become separated. Injected by your veterinarian between your dog’s shoulder blades, this microchip contains a code that is stored in a database with your contact information. 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.
Supplies For Puppy Playtime
What puppy doesn’t love to play with toys? Activities like wrestling a stuffed animal, chewing on a rubber ducky and learning how to fetch a tossed miniature Frisbee stimulate your puppy’s mind and body, helping him develop into a well-rounded, adult dog. From squeaky balls and figurines shaped like your favorite politician to colorful ropes, stuffed animals and stuffable hard rubber balls, there’s a toy for any dog’s taste.
Toys can be generally divided into five categories, say experts: chew toys, plush toys, tug toys, chase toys and interactive toys. Puppies are going to chew as they develop their adult teeth, so chew toys, like treat-releasing balls, allow your pup to put his mouth on something approved — not your favorite shoes! Interactive and chase toys require you, the human, to play with your pup. Fetchable balls and tug toys are iconic examples of these fun human-puppy bonding toys.
In general, when choosing toys for your puppy, Dodman recommends following these tips:
- Offer toys that are sized appropriately for him.
- Look for toys that are strong, durable and well-made.
- Inspect toys carefully for potential hazards, like small pieces that could be ingested.
- Select chew toys designed for chewing, like treat-filled rubber toys.
- If you buy stuffed animals for your pup, supervise him while he plays with them.
- When toys become worn or frayed, replace them.
- Dole out toys a couple at a time; keep a stash hidden and rotate them to prevent boredom.
Puppy Training Supplies
Housebreaking, which is when you teach your pup to do his business outside, and obedience training, which is when you teach your pup to obey commands like “sit” and “come,” are important for his physical and mental development, not to mention his ability to co-habitate with humans. They each have their own sets of products.
1. Crate: When teaching a puppy to hold his bladder and wait to go outside, trainer Jim Burwell of Petiquette Dog Training in Houston, Texas, recommends crate training. This is when you confine your pup for short amounts of time in a hard-sided or wire crate or carrier. Because dogs won’t piddle or poop in their sleeping area, the pup will learn to hold it until he’s let out of the crate.
“Crate time will teach him to hold his business,” Burwell says. “And the crate can’t be any bigger than enough room for him to get up, turn around and lie back down again. Too much room and he’ll go to the other end and potty and go to the other end to get away from it. So size of crate is important.”
When choosing a crate, which can double as a sleeping den and travel carrier, make sure it’s well-made, has a secure locking mechanism, and is sized to allow the pup to stand and turn around but confined enough to dissuade accidents.
2. Training Leash: Teaching your puppy how to obey commands, like sit, stay, come and heel, will start him off on the right paw, Burwell says. One essential item you’ll need is a 6-foot training leash, and possibly a longer one for practicing recall, or “come” from far distances.
3. Training Treats And Pouch: Another essential item: training treats that’ll keep your puppy motivated during obedience lessons. The best ones, Burwell says, are higher-value foods that are super super tasty. “Dogs recognize the difference between freeze-dried liver and a boring cookie,” he says. “If a dog learns that he gets freeze-dried liver when called, he’ll come running.”
You’ll need a portable container for those super-tasty (and super-stinky!) treats, so consider using a lined treat pouch or bag that’ll keep your pockets clean.
Puppy Sleeping And Time-Out Supplies
Everyone appreciates a comfy bed — including your puppy. He’ll be doing a lot of sleeping as he grows; in fact, Dodman reports that a 9-month-old pup needs around 15 to 18 hours of sleep a day! Your pal will need his own place to sleep, nap and chill out when you can’t supervise him. That’s where these products come into play.
1. Crate: The first “bed” your pup will have is his crate or kennel, the same one you’ll use for housebreaking. It might seem mean to prohibit him from sleeping with you, but don’t worry: He’ll appreciate (and grow to love!) his own den-like space. To make the crate more warm and comfortable while he’s snoozing, place a blanket, pillow or small bumper bed inside.
2. X-Pens And Baby Gates: Both of these keep curious pups corralled in one place. An X-pen is a set of adjustable, portable wire panels that confine your pup to a specific indoor or outdoor area. After you have assembled the pen, you can enclose your pup, his crate, food and water bowls, and toys inside the space. A baby gate, which confines your pal to one puppy-proofed room, will give your pup a bit more freedom — but be sure he’s supervised.
3. Bed: Once your pup has graduated from housebreaking, he’ll be ready for a real bed. They’re available in all sorts of styles, shapes and sizes, and they’re typically stuffed with cotton, poly-blends or memory foam. Some have cedar chips for odor and insect control. When shopping for a bed, choose one with a removable, washable cover, and make sure it’s sized appropriately for your growing dog.
Puppy Feeding Supplies
A healthy, nutrient-dense diet designed for your puppy is a must, too, as is some practical (or stylish!) dishware to serve it in. And we can’t forget about the treats, right? With all the selections available, how do you choose?
1. Food: By the time you take your puppy home, he will likely have been weaned from milk and eating puppy food formulated for optimal development. Compared to foods formulated to maintain health in adult dogs, puppy food contains more essential nutrients, such as protein and carbohydrates, that encourage the growth of healthy bones and muscles. Puppy food also includes supplements like omega-3 fatty acids for brain development, says Joseph J. Wakshlag, MS, DVM, PhD, DACVN, associate professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York.
“The vitamins and minerals, fats, carbs and protein, they’re more important during growth because you’re building mass,” Wakshlag says. “You’re building skeletal mass. You’re building muscle. You’re building brain tissue. All these things require higher protein content. You’re building red blood cells and bone marrow, so iron becomes important. You’re building bone, so calcium and phosphorus become more important.”
When choosing a brand of puppy food, look for one that is formulated for “growth and development,” contains wholesome ingredients and is palatable to your pup’s taste. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your veterinarian about the right diet for your puppy.
2. Dishware: Though a paper plate or mismatched dish from the cupboard will suffice, a set of dog dishes will give your pup his own bowls for eating and drinking. Plastic bowls are lightweight and inexpensive, but they can retain residue and harbor bacteria as they become worn. Stainless steel bowls cost more, but they’re easy to clean and sanitize. Ceramic pieces look nice, but they can be breakable — especially around rambunctious puppies. Whichever you choose, pick a size that’s right for your puppy’s serving size.
3. Treats: Though not a necessary item, treats give you the opportunity to show your pal some love with a delicious bite. From biscuits and cupcakes to jerky and raw meat morsels to carrots and green beans, options vary almost as much as diets! Note the ingredients and nutrition information when splurging on treats, and remember that too many calorie-dense goodies can result in a chubby puppy.
Puppy Grooming Supplies
Regardless of your pup’s breed, his coat will need regular washing, brushing and, possibly, clipping. Your pal will also need his toenails trimmed, his ears cleaned and his teeth brushed. It’s not difficult; with some patience and practice, you and your puppy will grow to enjoy grooming time together.
“Make it a positive experience,” says Carol Ferguson, a groomer in Durango, Colorado. “Don’t push them. Do a little bit at a time and put them back in their kennel or give them a break. They can only process so much at one time, and they do tire out quite quickly.”
The basic supplies she says you’ll need for your grooming kit will include:
1. Shampoo And Conditioner: Stick with a tearless, gentle shampoo and conditioner that’s designed for puppies. Once he’s older, he can graduate to the adult variety. Avoid using human products on your puppy because the pH difference could dry your pup’s skin and coat.
2. Brush: You’ll find many different styles of brushes and combs, and the ones you choose will depend on your pup’s coat type. Bristle brushes work best on short coats, for example, and slicker brushes work well on longer coats; talk to a professional dog groomer about the type best suited for your dog.
3. Comb: A metal or stainless steel comb is handy to have, too, to help tease out trouble spots. Choose one with narrow teeth on one end and wider teeth on the other.
4. Nail Clippers: Those tiny nails will grow fast, so you’ll need some puppy-sized toenail clippers to keep them trim and dull. You can choose from two versions: a guillotine style that cuts the nail in one motion, or a scissor style that snips through the nail. Use the type that you’re most comfortable with.
5. Toothbrush And Toothpaste: As soon as your puppy’s permanent teeth come in (around 4 to 6 months old), you’ll need to brush his teeth several times a week with a child’s toothbrush and dog toothpaste (not human toothpaste) to clean bacteria, plaque and tartar from his mouth. Get him used to the ritual early by brushing his baby teeth so he gets used to you working in his mouth.
6. Some Extras: As you build your grooming kit, here are some other items you might need:
- Blow dryer with a no- or low-heat setting
- Conditioning spray, or diluted conditioner in a spray bottle
- Cotton balls
- Ear cleaning solution
- Grooming table or grooming area
- Shampoo and conditioner (designed for puppies)
- Styptic powder or cornstarch (to stop toenail bleeding)
- Treats, for a groom well-done
Keeping Your Home Clean With A Puppy
When a puppy moves into your home, clean-up chores must be done regularly. Housebreaking mistakes will happen, and poop will need to be scooped. When gobbling through dinner, food and water spills happen and need to be mopped up. And playtime — especially on a rainy, muddy day — brings its own messy chaos. Your chores will be easier with cleaning supplies on hand.
1. Cleaning Products: Because harsh chemicals can be hard on a puppy’s respiratory tract and paw pads, stick with cleaning products made with more gentle, natural ingredients. Pet-safe, enzyme-based formulas work well at eliminating odors and bacteria, and good-old vinegar is a great go-to in a pinch.
2. Puppy Pads: These handy sheets have a waterproof side and an absorbent side. When you place a few of these in your pup’s crate or X-pen, waterproof-side down, they’ll absorb accidents just in case your pet can’t wait for his outside bathroom break.
3. Pooper Scooper: A cleanup necessity for picking up your pup’s poop, pooper scoopers allow you to pick up your pet’s waste without having to handle it. Choices range from gadget-filled devices to the simple shovel.
4. Pick-Up Bags: For those walks around the neighborhood or play dates at the dog park, use some pick-up bags to clean up after your puppy does his business. They’re available in pet stores, and some even come with decorative carrying cases.
Let’s Go Shopping
When you go shopping for your new family member, start with the basics and go from there. It’s easy to splurge and buy every toy and treat you see (like we did with Petey!), but remember — you have a lifetime ahead with your pup and plenty of time to spoil him!