Becoming a pup parent is an exciting time, and you’re undoubtedly already thinking about how much fun and joy your new pooch is going to bring to your home. While your excitement is well-founded, it’s important to not forget that looking after a puppy is a heck of a challenge and a whole lot of responsibility. It requires immeasurable patience, dedication, and tons of hard work. In fact, it is quite literally like having a small child running amok in the house.
If your home will soon be graced by an adorable pup, you need to be prepared for their arrival. From puppy-friendly toys to grooming supplies, there is a lot to consider and get ready. Luckily, you won’t have to spend your nights stressing over what you need to sort out, and if you forget anything – we’re here to help.
Today, we’ve compiled a comprehensive new puppy checklist that covers everything you need to know to become the ultimate pup parent; must-have items, training guidance, how to puppy-proof your home, and more.
New Puppy Checklist: The Essential Items
Below, we’ll go over all the essential items you’ll need to have ready for your new pup’s arrival. We’ll also cover why these items are important for their wellbeing.
Keep in mind that some breeds have specialized needs that will require you to buy other items not listed here or avoid some items entirely. For example, small dogs and brachycephalic breeds shouldn’t wear collars, as they can worsen breathing problems and even damage the trachea.
Let’s start off with the must-have basics.
It goes without saying your new pup needs a snug place to rest that keeps them off the cold floor. Bolster, elevated, mattress – there are several types of dog beds, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. To begin with, we recommend going for a bolster bed, as this type can help puppies to feel safe, snug, and protected.
When picking a bed, opt for one which is durable and scratch-resistant; puppies are notorious for exploring the world with their paws and claws, and treating everything in it as their personal chew toy!
Since your pup is bound to have accidents, you should also invest in one that’s waterproof or a waterproof bed cover. This will prevent stains and make cleaning hassle-free.
As your pup grows and you become more familiar with their sleeping style, it’s worth looking for a new bed that will better accommodate their needs. For example, if you notice they love to sleep stretched out, find a bed that lets them do just that; spacious and no raised edges (mattress style).
Our recommendation: Bedsure Bolster Dog Bed.
Food and Water Bowls
You’ll need to invest in slip-resistant bowls for their water and food. Material-wise, we recommend stainless steel since it’s easier to clean and doesn’t absorb odors.
Elevated food bowls can potentially help with posture and digestion, but if your pup is a large or giant breed, we advise against using elevated bowls. While elevated bowls were initially thought to help reduce the risk of bloat in big dogs, a recent study found that they actually increased the risk. Although this finding is still up for debate, it’s best to err on the side of caution and stick to regular bowls for now.
Our recommendation: Mlife Stainless Steel Dog Bowls.
Make sure to always buy puppy-friendly food that’s rich in nutrients and easily digestible. Never feed your pup adult dog food. Puppies grow exceptionally fast, so they need food specifically formulated to help their physical development.
Your pup’s exact dietary needs – and their food schedule – can depend on all sorts of factors, including breed, body condition, and metabolism. Before your new pup arrives, it’s important you research into their breed and history to determine what food is best for them and what their food schedule should look like. As they grow, the amount of food they eat and how often will vary.
At first, you should ideally give your pup the food the adoption facility or breeder has been giving them. If you wish to swap them to a new food, you’ll need to transition them off of their original food gradually; otherwise, they’ll be left with an upset stomach.
Our recommendation: Purina Pro Plan Puppy Food.
A crate provides a den-like space for your pup, where they can feel safe and secure. It has immeasurable benefits; it helps with housebreaking, alleviates anxiety, and makes traveling a stress-free affair.
Some misinformed dog owners believe that crating a pup is akin to “caging” them. But a crate will only cause distress if it’s used inappropriately.
Just like dog beds, there are several types of crates. To figure out which type is best for your pup’s needs, as well as which size to get, read our crate guide here. In the guide, we also cover how to crate train them effectively.
Our recommendation: MidWest Pet Crate.
An ID tag is essential for your dog’s safety; around 14% of dogs get lost at least once in their life.
You should include your home address and phone number on their tag. It’s also worth including the message “I’m microchipped” and noting any health issues they have.
Although it’s tempting to add your pup’s name, we advise against this. If they escape and the wrong person spots them, you could be giving this person a means to easily entice your pup to follow them.
Our recommendation: GoTags Stainless Steel ID Tags.
As your puppy would say, if they could talk: the more treats, the better! Treats are essential for training, and they can also help relieve boredom and alleviate stress.
Make sure to stock up on a variety of puppy-friendly treats at first, not just one particular type – your pup might like the taste of some but hate the taste of others.
While it’s important to give treats, don’t overindulge them. If you give them too many, it will reduce their value in your pup’s mind, which will make training more difficult. It could also make them sick and lead to health problems like obesity.
Treat Training Tip
Once you’ve figured out your pup’s all-time favorite treat, use it for training purposes only. This will help to keep them motivated during their training sessions.
Our recommendation: Wellness Natural Treats.
When collecting your new pup, bring a blanket with you and rub it over their littermates. The scent will offer your pup a sense of comfort and familiarity, something they’ll definitely appreciate during their first few nights with you.
Our recommendation: Comsmart Paw Print Blankets.
A clicker makes training more efficient, as it allows you to clearly communicate to your pup exactly which behavior you want them to do. It also turns training into a fun game, which helps to keep them interested and eager to learn.
If you’re not familiar with clicker training, make sure to check out AKC’s comprehensive guide.
Our recommendation: OYEFLY Training Clicker.
Puppy Gates or Playpen
It’s essential your pup has a cordoned-off area in the house they can call their own. Like a crate, it can help to lessen their anxiety, and it also ensures their safety when you’re unable to supervise them.
Our recommendation: MidWest Foldable Playpen.
While looking after a new puppy can be a wonderful experience, there are some moments no owner looks forward to: cleaning up after the never-ending messes they leave behind. Below, we’ll cover all the items you’ll need for dealing with their business.
Your pup is bound to have accidents. Potty training takes time, and a puppy’s bladder doesn’t fully develop until they’re around six months old.
Pee pads, which are absorbent, easy to clean pads you can place on the floor, help to lessen the chance of accidents in the house; you can train your pup to use them if you’re not there to take them outside to relieve themselves.
Our recommendation: Amazon Basics Pee Pads.
Stain and Odor Remover
Unfortunately, even if you train your pup to use pee pads, they’ll still have accidents every now and again. After all, they’re learning and making sense of the world! Luckily, there are plenty of stain removers out there equipped to deal with your pup’s accidents.
Make sure to opt for an enzymatic cleaner, as this type will eliminate the smell as well as the stain. It also discourages your pup from peeing in that area again.
Our recommendation: Nature’s Miracle Enzymatic Cleaner.
Don’t forget to invest in some high-quality, leak-proof waste bags. Picking up after your dog is anything but pleasant, but doing so is a must; dog waste contains harmful pathogens that can make people and wildlife sick. Plus, most states have legislation in place to combat pet fouling – if you don’t pick up their waste, you’ll be met with hefty fines.
To make the process a little more bearable, you can purchase scented waste bags and a pooper scooper (see below).
Our recommendation: Earth Rated Poo Bags.
A pooper scooper is perfect for those who suffer from back or knee pain. It is a device that lets you clear up your dog’s waste without having to reach down. For the same reason, it’s also ideal for those who prefer to keep their distance from the mess.
Our recommendation: PPOGOO Pet Pooper Scooper.
Next up, toys! It’s vital your new furry friend has a wide range of mentally stimulating toys to play with. The more variety, the more their senses will be engaged, and the less likely they’ll become bored. Different types also provide different benefits for your pup, which we’ll go over below.
Make sure any toys you get are puppy-friendly and won’t pose a choking hazard. Always supervise your pup when interacting with their toys for the first time. You should also wash their toys on a regular basis to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Chew toys encourage your pup to exercise their jaw and can help minimize the discomfort of teething. Plus, by giving them plenty of chew toys, you’ll be reducing the chances of them chomping on your brand-new slippers (and every other belonging that catches their eye!).
Our recommendation: KONG Puppy Chew Toy.
Interactive toys are those that require your participation, like fetch and tug-of-war toys. For high-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise, interactive toys are a must; they help them release all their pent-up energy.
With that said, be aware that it’s best to play fetch in moderation. According to recent studies, the repetitive motion of running, retrieving, and jumping makes them prone to injuries and can also cause joint problems later in their life. Too much fetch can even encourage obsessive behavior.
Our recommendation: Hyper Pet Tennis Balls.
Puzzle toys provide endless entertainment and will keep your pup from getting bored while you’re away. They come in all difficulties. When choosing one for your pup, make sure it’s not too difficult for them, otherwise, they’ll likely become frustrated.
Our recommendation: Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toys.
With their softness and cuddliness, plush toys can be very comforting, and they’re sure to help your pup settle into their new home. Make sure to opt for machine washable plush toys, and avoid any that have a coarse, sharp filling (like straw).
Keep in mind that plush toys aren’t suitable for every pup – they are not exactly chew-resistant, and their soft texture will encourage some dogs to shred them to smithereens! As we mentioned earlier, be sure to watch how your pup interacts with any toy before leaving it with them unsupervised.
Our recommendation: SmartPetLove Snuggle Puppy Toy.
Dogs are natural hunters; they love to work for their meals. A food-dispensing toy provides exactly this opportunity. Your pup has to scavenge, shake, lick and move it about to reach the tasty delights hidden inside. Besides satisfying their desire to hunt, food-dispensing toys also help them use up excess energy.
Our recommendation: KONG Wobbler Treat Dispensing Toy.
Here’s all the things you’ll need to make your new pup’s daily “walkies” a walk in the park.
We recommend getting a standard leash that’s 4 to 5 ft long. This length gives you control over your pup but still lets them explore their surroundings with ease.
We also recommend investing in a traffic leash. A traffic leash is extremely short in length (around 1 to 2 ft), which gives you even greater control and ensures your pup stays close by your side. It can come in handy in all sorts of situations, from walking through high traffic areas to visiting the veterinarian.
When picking out a leash, ensure it’s size appropriate – it shouldn’t be too bulky. It also needs to be light and not weigh your pup down, so avoid heavy clasps and materials.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll need a collar for your pup as well. We recommend choosing a collar that is made from nylon, as the material is durable, water-resistant, and lightweight.
Since your pup will likely outgrow its collar within a month or so, we also advise investing in an adjustable collar. This type allows you to alter the size as they grow, saving you a lot of money in the long run.
Be aware that dogs with necks larger than their heads, like Greyhounds and Whippets, will need specialized collars (martingale collars) – they’ll be able to easily slip out of regular collars.
The next piece of walking equipment you should consider is a harness. A harness is a great training tool for pups that are struggling to learn leash manners. It gives you better control, discourages pulling, and helps to prevent them from getting tangled up in the leash.
A harness is also a must if your pup is brachycephalic or a small breed; it alleviates the pressure off their neck, reducing the risk of any injuries arising.
Top Dog Tips have a helpful guide to determine the right harness size for your pup, which you can check out here. Keep in mind that just like there are adjustable collars, plenty of adjustable harnesses are available on the market.
Our recommendation: EcoBark Mesh Dog Harness.
It’s time to prepare for muddy paws, stinking breath, and a whole lot of fluffy chaos!
Be aware that not all of the grooming items we cover below need to be bought before your pup’s arrival. In fact, it makes sense to buy many of them after, as you’ll be more familiar with your pup’s individual needs.
Brushing your dog has a myriad of benefits – it doesn’t just keep their coat healthy and tangle-free! These benefits include:
- Lessens shedding around the house.
- Removes dead skin cells, loose hair, debris, and dirt, which helps to prevent skin irritation.
- Allows you to closely examine the skin for any mites, ticks, or lumps.
- Distributes the natural oils in their coat, helping to stop greasy buildup.
- Helps to prevent overheating since it removes excess fur and trapped undercoat fur.
- Can make for great one on one bonding time.
The grooming brush type you should get – and how often they need to be groomed – will ultimately depend on their coat type. For example, long-coated pups will need regular de-tangling sessions, as their fur is prone to matting and knots. For the same reason, they’ll also need a brush specifically designed to tackle tangles (like a slicker brush).
For more guidance on choosing the right grooming brush for your pup, click here.
If your pup has a high maintenance coat, we also recommend investing in a knot-free spray. This will let you deal with the problem areas quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Our recommendation: TropiClean Tangle Remover.
Did you know that dogs can hear four times better than us? Your pup’s ears don’t just give them phenomenal hearing though, they also help them convey emotions and maintain their balance.
Considering how important their ears are, it goes without saying they need to be protected and kept in working order. The best way to do this is to ensure they’re kept clean.
The two main types of ear cleaners are ear wipes and liquid cleaner. Ear wipes are gentler and excel at tackling surface-level wax and debris. In contrast, liquid ear cleaners provide a much more thorough clean; they can reach every crevice of the ear canal, making them perfect for pups prone to ear problems.
How often you’ll need to clean their ears can vary. It ultimately depends on factors like their breed, lifestyle, and earwax production. With that said, the average dog will usually need its ears cleaned once or twice a month.
Our recommendation: Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner.
Most dogs only need to be washed once or twice a month. However, if your pup ends up being the “I must splash in every puddle and roll in everything that’s smelly” type, you’ll need the doggy shampoo out on a regular basis.
When choosing a shampoo for your puppy, opt for one which is mild on the skin and has no added fragrances. You should also take into account your pup’s individual needs and skin type. For example, if they have dry skin, pick a shampoo with a moisturizing formula (ingredients like aloe vera).
Our recommendation: TropiClean Shampoos for Pets.
It’s important to brush your pup’s teeth on a regular basis; poor dental hygiene in dogs can bring about a whole host of issues, like periodontal disease.
Whichever toothpaste you give your pup, make sure it’s designed for dogs – never use human toothpaste. Dogs’ mouths are different from ours, and they also tolerate different things; the majority of human toothpaste has xylitol, an ingredient that is extremely toxic to dogs.
There is a wide array of dog toothpastes on the market, each having its own unique formula, taste, and consistency. Since your pup might be picky over the flavor, it’s a good idea to buy a variety at first.
It goes without saying you’ll need a puppy toothbrush as well! There are two main types: classic style (similar to a human toothbrush) and finger style. The latter is essentially a small brush that fits on your finger.
If you have a dog with a long snout, make sure to opt for a long-handled toothbrush. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time reaching the teeth at the back of their mouth.
WebMD has gathered plenty of veterinarian-approved tips for brushing your dog’s teeth, which you can explore here.
Our recommendation: Vet’s Best Enzymatic Toothpaste and Toothbrush.
It’s vital you keep your new companion’s nails well-trimmed throughout their life. The longer the nails are, the greater chance they have of cracking or tearing off, and the harder it’ll be for your pup to walk comfortably.
Make sure to buy nail clippers that are appropriate for the size of your pup’s nails. We also recommend opting for a pair that has a non-slip handle and safety guard.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to first get your pup accustomed to their paws and nails being handled before attempting any trimming.
If you’re nervous about trimming your dog’s nails, take them to a professional groomer instead.
Our recommendation: BOSHEL Dog Nail Clippers.
Grooming wipes make it easy to keep your dog squeaky clean; they can quickly clear up any dirt, dead skin, or debris trapped in the coat. Grooming wipes also allow you to easily clean skin folds and wrinkles, which will help to keep them free of infection-causing bacteria.
When picking out grooming wipes, make sure they don’t contain parabens and harsh chemicals like strong alcohols (isopropyl).
Our recommendation: Pogi’s Grooming Wipes.
Deshedding Tool and Pet Vacuum Cleaner
Unless your pup is a “no-shed” breed, they’re going to bless your house with a whole lot of hair – on the carpet, the furniture, your clothes, everything and everywhere. If you don’t want to risk going to work with fluff-covered pants, you’ll need to invest in a de-shedding tool as well as a vacuum cleaner that is specifically designed to tackle pet hair.
For more tips on how to keep your house hair-free, check out the Real Home’s guide.
New Puppy Checklist: Responsibilities
Great! You’ve now got all the necessary items for your pup. Sadly, the work isn’t over yet; from registering with a veterinarian to sorting out pet insurance, you’ve still got a few things left to do before they arrive.
Register With Veterinarian
When choosing which veterinarian to register with, make sure to choose one that has plenty of experience working with your dog’s breed. You should also consider:
- How close they are to your home
- Average waiting time for an appointment
- What facilities they have
- If they’re accredited with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)
If you’re struggling to narrow down your options, it’s worth visiting each practice in person before you register. This will give you a much better picture of how they operate and how easy they are to access (travel-wise and parking-wise).
At each practice, you should also ask questions about their care and services, such as if diagnostic tests are done on or off-site and what emergency services they have.
Your breeder or adoption facility will have likely already begun your pup’s vaccinations. However, you will need to continue (or start if your breeder hasn’t) their vaccine schedule yourself. It can be difficult, but you won’t have to navigate through this alone; your veterinarian and online guides can help you out.
Your pup needs to be covered against the four main parasites: fleas, ticks, intestinal worms, and heartworms. Puppies are exceptionally vulnerable to parasites, so you should start prevention measures as soon as possible. If parasites are left untreated, they can cause serious health problems.
Make sure to find a treatment that is appropriate for their age and weight. Speak to your veterinarian if you’re unsure which type of treatment to use. Grooming and maintaining a clean environment, like regularly washing your pup’s bedding and food dishes, will also help to prevent parasites.
For more information about parasites, including the symptoms to look out for, click here.
Even if you’re convinced you’ll always have enough money to cover their medical expenses, there’s no telling what will happen in the future. If your pup gets sick or injured, the costs can quickly add up – pet insurance helps lessen the financial burden from these unexpected costs.
Pet insurance can be exceptionally difficult to navigate; there are countless plans on offer. If you’re finding it hard to figure out which one is best for you and your pup, we recommend checking out Forbes’ list of the top 13 pet insurance plans.
Once your new puppy arrives, one of the first things you should do is update their microchip with your contact details.
Depending on the microchip database provider, you will have to update the information by post, telephone, or online. If they’ve already been chipped, the adoption clinic or your breeder should provide you with all the details you need to know, including the provider and the microchip’s number. Otherwise, you can contact your veterinarian for information on getting your puppy microchipped.
A dog trainer can help you set up an effective training plan and also help with any bad habits your pup picks up throughout their life. Make sure you choose a qualified trainer that uses positive reinforcement methods and has experience working with your dog’s breed.
Always meet them in person first before committing; they should be approachable, friendly, and easy to communicate with. You should also supervise a session to get a feel for their training approach. An easy way to see if they’ll be a good fit is to ask who their role models in the industry are; avoid trainers whose role models don’t use positive reinforcement. If you aren’t comfortable with their methods or notice any red flags, look elsewhere.
Red flags include:
- They claim they provide guaranteed results
- They lack qualifications and claim they’re self-taught
- They use punishment-based measures
- They use terminology like “alpha,” “pack,” and “dominance”
- Lack of transparency; they won’t fully disclose all their training methods
- Tell you you’ll see fast results
- They call themselves a “balanced” trainer – this just means they will use all sorts of training measures, including punishment
- They don’t have insurance
- The struggle to answer your questions (or give basic answers)
Many dog trainers also run group puppy classes. Besides helping with training, these sessions offer fantastic socialization experiences for your pup; they will get to interact with all kinds of dogs and people. Research has shown that weekly puppy training classes can even reduce stress, fear, and aggression.
If your dog trainer does not offer puppy classes, ask your veterinarian for recommendations, or check out your local humane society, they often host a variety of training classes.
Before you sign your pup up for a class, make sure to watch a session first. The puppies (and their owners) should look happy and at ease. The class shouldn’t be crowded, and the area should be well-kept and clean. As always, avoid puppy classes that use punishment-based training methods.
Keep in mind that all reputable classes will require pups to be up to date with vaccinations before being allowed to enroll. As such, you should also avoid any classes that don’t ask for vaccination history.
You’ll undoubtedly need to hire a pet sitter at some stage in your dog’s life, so it’s a good idea to have a few contacts on hand.
When looking for pet sitters, make sure to ask about their experience and what types of dogs they’ve looked after in the past. You should also ask for references and find out how they will communicate with you and what their service involves.
A professional groomer will help keep your dog’s coat muck-free and styled appropriately. Not all dogs need a professional groomer, but if your pup has a high-maintenance coat – or you simply don’t trust your own grooming capabilities – you’ll need one on speed dial.
Make sure to find a groomer that has plenty of experience with your pup’s breed and size.
Training and Socialization Schedule
Having a training and socialization schedule ready from the get-go will ensure you can better prepare yourself and start with no delay. It’s important to begin sooner rather than later; the first 16 weeks are the critical socialization period of a dog’s life, where they are more receptive to new things.
Puppy-proofing the House
No new puppy checklist would be complete without some handy tips and tricks on how to puppy-proof your house!
- Invest in a puppy-proof, secure trash can.
- Keep wires and electrical cords out of their reach, as well as any items that could pose a choking hazard.
- Use gates to block off the stairs; if your pup gets curious and tries to climb up, they could accidentally fall and hurt themselves.
- Ensure your yard is secure and safe. There should be shaded areas and no holes or gaps they can escape through. You should also remove any poisonous plants.
- Avoid using insecticides, as they can be incredibly harmful to dogs.
- Lock up medication, cleaning supplies, and any other substances that could be harmful to your pup.
- Keep low windows shut.
- Keep the bathroom door closed at all times.
- Get into the habit of storing food away rather than leaving it on the counter. No human food should ever be within your pup’s reach.
New Puppy Frequently Asked Questions
Bringing your new puppy home for the first time can be exceptionally stressful and make you feel at a loss; what’s the best way to welcome them? Where should they sleep? What should you teach them first? But don’t worry – we won’t leave you in the dark. Here, we’ll answer the common questions new puppy owners have.
What To Do When You Bring a New Puppy Home?
Before you collect your new puppy, make sure you’ve puppy-proofed the house.
When picking them up, give them ample time to sniff you and play with you; this will help them become further accustomed to your scent and presence. We talked about this in our new puppy checklist above, but don’t forget to also bring a blanket to rub over their littermates.
When taking your pup home in your car, put them in a secure travel kennel with the blanket and a couple of puppy-friendly treats. Make sure to also talk to them throughout the journey, as this will help to reassure them and lessen their anxiety.
Once you arrive home, tell family members to be calm and quiet; it can be tempting (especially for kids) to drown a new pup in lots of hugs and attention, but this will be very overwhelming for them!
Where Should a Puppy Sleep the First Night?
Ideally, your pup should sleep in your bedroom at first. Your company will help them to feel less lonely and more at ease. It also ensures you can easily hear them throughout the night – they will whine if they need to relieve themselves.
Keep in mind that you should ignore your new pup if they’re only whining to gain your attention. Although it can be tempting to cuddle and soothe them every time they cry for you during the night, it can actually do more harm than good. We go over this in greater detail in our dedicated first night with puppy guide. In the guide, we also share more tips on how to make your pup’s first night as stress-free as possible.
What Should I Do in the First Week?
Here we’ll briefly cover some of the key things you should do in the first week with your new puppy.
- Take them to the veterinarian for a check-up and also to schedule their next vaccinations.
- Begin potty training and crate training.
- Start socialization sessions.
- Spend plenty of time bonding with them.
- Introduce your family gradually – make sure each interaction is positive.
- Avoid inviting friends over in the first week. Let your new puppy settle down first.
- Establish boundaries regarding where your pup can go in the house.
We’ve included links to helpful resources throughout our new puppy checklist, but below we’ve gathered a few more which we feel will help you prepare for your new pup’s arrival.
- Our guide on puppy potty training.
- AKC’s expert dog care advice.
- PetMD’s training and dog behavioral
- Puppy Training Basics guide by VCA.
- Fetch’s puppy care guides.
- The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) tips on finding a veterinarian.
- PetMD’s guide on combatting puppy chewing.
- PetMD’s advice on how to correctly brush your pup’s coat.
- AKC’s step-by-step guide on bathing a puppy.
- Preventive Vet’s article on how to safely clean up your pup’s accidents.
Looking after a new puppy can be a nerve-wracking challenge, and at times you might doubt yourself and wonder if you’re truly equipped for dog ownership. But rest assured that with dedication, commitment, and preparation, you’ll definitely be the best owner you can be for your new pup.
Above, we’ve made sure our new puppy checklist covers everything you need to know and own to give your pup the best start in life.