The “Puppy Comes Home” List
Here are the supplies, tasks, and decisions to address before your puppy comes home.
Where to buy: I am a big Amazon fan and check there first for most things. I also shop Petedge and Revival Animal on the Internet (and there are other sites carrying supplies). Locally Farm & Fleet and Tractor Supply may carry what you want at a reasonable price. In the Milwaukee area, LDC offers a good selection. You may find crates at very reasonable prices at yard sales, on Craig’s List, or via Freecycle.
Housing: In most cases this will be a crate. Even if you plan to contain your dog in a kennel run or laundry room, you will do your dog a great service in teaching s/he to relax quietly in a crate. Your dog (and you!) will be a welcome visitor in a hotel or a friend’s home. Unfortunately a crate appropriate for your dog’s anticipated adult size is not the most effective tool for housebreaking. If you will not have an ongoing need for a smaller crate consider borrowing one to use initially to save the additional expense. I just purchased a “Remington” size medium at Tractor Supply for $35. It’s the perfect size for a 9 week old, but I’m guessing in 4 to 6 weeks it will be too small.
Types: wire crates provide better airflow and allow your dog more of a view, which may be preferable if you are crating several dogs in one space so the dog doesn’t feel alone. For the single dog, plastic or other solid crates may provide more of a secure den. I especially like crates that can be disassembled readily for cleaning, and appreciate doors that will open from either side.
Optional: an ex-pen can be a very useful tool, especially in a busy household without a fenced yard.
Decision: where to place the crate in your home? Again, you may wish to consider borrowing a crate if you plan to give your dog more house privileges eventually, but you will likely find it helpful to have a crate in your living area and a second one where the dog will sleep. Your puppy may transition better to his/her new life if the crate is in or nearby your sleeping area, and this will allow you to hear the puppy so that you can take him or her outside during the night to potty and hopefully avoid accidents.
Bedding: we all like to make sure that our dogs rest comfortably, so we thoughtfully provide a towel, blanket or crate pad. This may not be the best decision for a puppy, however, as the puppy may view the bedding as a convenient absorbent place to potty, or as a chew toy. If you provide bedding in the crate, inspect it regularly to make sure that it remains dry and intact. The best solution may be a rubber mat that is thick enough to withstand chewing.
Feeding and water dishes: I prefer stainless steel or ceramic. Non-tip dishes are especially nice for puppies since they inevitably step in them and spill the contents of a regular dish. We like 2 quart buckets to hang in our crates; the flat-backed type hangs a little more neatly.
Decisions: who will have primary responsibility, and how will other family members be involved to keep training consistent? Investigate puppy kindergarten obedience class and/or line up training resources.
Collar and/or harness
Lead(s)-short (4 to 6 feet, made of something easy on the hands), retractable, check cord
Retrieving dummies (the puppy should not be allowed to have these as toys) and/or tennis balls
Grooming: if you can find time to groom your dog once a week, you’ll keep his or her coat and nails in good condition with a minimum of time. I prefer to keep excess hair around the throat and ears trimmed to avoid mats, but otherwise do not think that the dog must be clipped regularly to be tidy.
Nail clipper (I prefer the pliers type vs. the guillotine models)
Optional but very useful:
Clippers – if you want to do your own trimming. If you’re going to buy a clipper, invest in a decent model with removable blades. Cheap models are no bargain.
Nail grinder – a Dremel tool does the same work and may be less expensive than a grinder sold for as a grooming tool. I was disappointed with the lack of power in the tool I purchased from Petedge recently. The light seemed like a good idea and hey, it was purple, but it’s not the best at getting the job done.
Choose a veterinarian. There is no shame in checking prices for basic services. Ask whether the clinic handles its own emergency work; if not, make sure you have an option identified for after-hours issues. Keep my cell phone number handy in case I can be helpful.
Toys – be sure to have plenty of items that the puppy is allowed to chew. If s/he picks up something that’s not a chew toy, trade a toy for your good shoe and praise the puppy for chewing on/playing with the toy. Beware of squeakers or pieces that can be chewed loose (e.g. eyes and noses on stuffed toys) and swallowed. Kongs (these can be stuffed with peanut butter and some kibble and frozen, and will keep the puppy entertained for a good while), latex toys, and rope bones are generally safe. There are different opinions about rawhide. I do give my dogs rawhide bones and chips, but prefer to supervise them with these to make sure they don’t become a choking hazard as the puppy whittles them down. The stuffed animals that Kohls sells as seasonal specials are generally safe and reasonably priced. Some dogs think the fun of stuffed animals comes from unstuffing, them, though, so make sure that the stuffing is the spun polyester versus the beaded variety (a mess may be annoying, but an impacted intestine is a serious and expensive problem), and be cautious about leaving these with your puppy when you aren’t supervising.
Puppy-proofing your house: unfortunately electrical cords can seem like good chew toys. If you have exposed cords that you can’t temporarily remove, consider a corrugated plastic cover or section of PVC pipe to avoid injury. Anything loose or hanging that attracts attention would be best relocated. If you or a family member can’t watch the puppy, s/he may be safer in a crate. Consider a schedule so that it’s clear who has responsibility for monitoring.
Yard clean-up: Keeping your yard clean and eliminating opportunity is the best way to avoid or minimize what we humans find very undesirable behavior – cophragia (poop-eating). Winter time and the delight of “poopsicles” seem to encourage this unfortunate tendency, which, in fairness to the dog, is a natural behavior. I prefer metal yard scoops for durability, but some of them are rather heavy. I’ve seen the brightly colored aluminum versions that we’re currently using at Woodmans, though with the smaller sized scoop. This model would probably suffice for a one-dog household, but for multiple dogs I recommend the larger-sized “pan.” If you will be walking your dog in your neighborhood regularly, you’ll find all sorts of leads and attachments incorporating clean-up bags. Please be a responsible dog owner and clean up after your dog when s/he poops in a public area.