The new puppy checklist: Everything you need for a new dog
Sep 14, 2023
As the proud mother of a newly ten-week-old pup, I can attest that nothing emotionally prepares you for the moment those little paws step into your home for the first time. Sure, there's getting used to a new routine and mourning the shoes that now double as chew toys. However, it's the immediate, all-encompassing love that you feel for your fur baby that really catches you by surprise.
Thankfully, there are many ways to physically prepare your home for your puppy's arrival and ensure that your adjustment to pet parenthood is as smooth and as safe as possible. Getting started can feel dizzying: what type of food will they need? What kind of crate works best (and looks good too)? Are there special treats to use for training? To help you avoid endless internet searches and decision fatigue, Select used expert guidance to create a complete and concise puppy parent checklist.
Below, we’ve used expert guidance to round up the essentials for any puppy parent, including tips from experts Andrea Arden, founder and director of Andrea Arden Dog Training, and Dr. Judy Morgan, an integrative veterinarian and owner of Dr. Judy Morgan's Naturally Healthy Pets. They shared the best tools to keep your puppy safe and happy as they navigate their new home, advice for successful house training and staying balanced during this transition
SKIP AHEAD Crates & Playpens | Collars, Harnesses & Leashes | Food Accessories | Toys & Treat Dispensers | Grooming | Cleaning Supplies | How to shop for dog food | Tips for house training
In your dog's younger, exploratory years, confined spaces like crates and playpens are essential methods of supervision. While you may swear to keep a watchful eye over your pup at all times, Arden says that even the smallest task, such as grabbing something in a different room, leaves enough time for your dog to get into trouble — whether that's playing with dangerous household items or using the bathroom where they aren't supposed to. When your puppy matures, a positive relationship with their crate can also make instances when you’re away from home much easier to conquer, says Morgan.
When looking for a crate for my puppy, I knew that I wanted to invest in a high-quality product that fit the style of my home. I found this option from Fable and liked that it felt sleek and modern. It was, however, the crate's durability, secure latching mechanism and ability to double as a side table that I loved above all.
I chose the signature wood finish with an acrylic gate in the medium size for my puppy. If that's not the right fit for your style or animal, Fable has color (for the gate and wood finish) and size options to make your pick feel custom. The brand offers a helpful sizing guide to consult before buying. If you’re still lost, Morgan says that any crate "should be big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down fully stretched on their side." If you choose an option that's too large, your puppy is more likely to "go to the bathroom on one end and sleep on the other", which diminishes the crate's potty training capabilities, says Arden.
Playpens serve the same safety purposes as crates while allowing for increased roaming space, according to Morgan. Arden recommends this one from Regalo because it sits directly on the floor and doesn't provide any leverage for puppies attempting to climb out. You can either configure the product's six panels into a confined playspace or use them as a gate to keep your puppy out of certain spaces in your home.
While collars, leashes and harnesses can seem like fun opportunities to accessorize your puppy, "your dog's equipment [is] what you use to keep them safe on the street, [so] focus on that — not the color," says Arden.
When looking for a harness, Arden recommends choosing figure eight-shaped options with leash attachments at the front as they "tend to discourage pulling without hurting the dog." She's a fan of this one from Sense-ation, which comes in nine sizes, ranging from Mini to Extra Large, and a variety of bright colors.
Even if you plan on sticking to harnesses, you should still get your dog used to wearing a collar, says Arden. They serve as identification in the event that you’re separated from your pup and, if their leash or harness malfunctions mid-walk, a collar is an added security measure that can help you pull them back to safety. My puppy wears this hemp option from If It Barks, which offers tons of options for customization. After picking the width and neck size that work best for your pup, you can choose the material of the collar's buckle and the number of leash attachments you’d like. Finally, for an additional $13, you can have your pup's name, your address, and any other contact information engraved in the font of your choice.
In addition to a sturdy fabric, "the [clip] that attaches to the leash to the collar or harness is really important because it's the main source of being connected to the dog," Arden says. "Make sure it isn't easy for you to flick with your thumb [so] your dog isn't accidentally unattached from you." She also recommends opting for a six-foot leash over a shorter option, allowing your puppy to explore within a safe distance. I use this one from the North Carolina-based dog brand If It Barks. It matches my puppy's collar and has a traffic grab handle for an extra dose of safety.
Selecting the right food for your puppy starts with careful considerations like breed, health concerns and your vet's recommendations. We share our expert's tips on how to shop for dog food below but here are some products that can help make mealtime as mess-free as possible.
My puppy's food consists of a dry kibble base with wet toppers, which means mealtime results in many dirty dishes. I initially designated a few pieces of my own silverware as dog-only utensils, but that pile kept growing and I knew something needed to change. Purchasing these silicone bowls and utensils has made all of the difference; I now have meal prep items that are easy to clean and clearly identifiable as my pup's. Each set comes with a suction, no-spill bowl, a spoon and a fork and can be purchased in five gorgeous colors.
Your puppy's playful energy won't stop at mealtime, meaning there's a good chance that their food and water will end up on your floors. "I do think that non-slip bowls are a godsend for puppy parents, " says Arden. "Petmate's No Spill Bowl is really great for goofy puppies because it's very hard for them to tip over. If you want to go for the extreme – no tipping, no splashing — the Petmate one is best."
"Just like small children, [puppies] learn through play and interaction," says Morgan, making toys an imperative aspect of your new dog's development. Boredom is also a leading cause of poor puppy behavior, she adds, meaning that selecting the right toys can actually assist you on your house training journey.
According to Morgan, supervising your puppy's playtime is imperative, even with the safest toys. She strongly recommends avoiding a toy most pet parents own: the tennis ball. "The covering abrades the enamel on [your dog's] teeth and is a choking hazard when swallowed," she says. Below are some safe and stimulating toy options that have the green light from both our experts and my new pup.
Both Morgan and Arden highly recommend including treat dispensing toys in your pup's collection, as they are great ways to keep them busy while also mentally stimulated. PetSafe's Buddy Twist & Treat is Arden's favorite because it has adjustable treat pockets that are rewarding for dogs of any age — "if it's a baby puppy, you’re going to make the opening bigger because they’re not yet toy savvy. If you have a more mature dog, you can make the opening smaller to make it more challenging," she says.
When I decided that I’d be crate training my puppy, I poked around TikTok for things other puppy parents did to ease anxieties throughout the night. I came across this Snuggle Puppy, which uses a battery-powered beating "heart" and heating packs to mimic the feeling of sleeping next to another dog, according to the brand. It has become his nightly snuggle buddy — and my godsend for helping me get a few more hours of sleep.
Every puppy loves to chew and mine is no exception. We spend most of our time playing tug with rope toys, however, my pup's energy and tiny teeth mean that I often get nipped in the process. Arden says this colorful, fleece option from Happy Hands Happy Dogs helps eliminate accidental biting, as "it's long enough for playing with puppies who don't yet have good impulse control or eye-mouth coordination."
When it comes to grooming, our experts say that there are a few tasks — nail trimming and haircuts, for instance — that can be saved for professionals. However, you should definitely plan on doing some daily maintenance on your pup to ensure that they remain squeaky clean. Plus, Morgan says the close contact between you and your dog while brushing their teeth or giving them a bath doubles as quality bonding and trust-building time. Below are some must-haves for your at-home grooming kit.
When it comes to bathing your puppy, Morgan recommends mild shampoos made for dogs with sensitive skin. "Do not use human shampoos, especially baby shampoos, on puppies," she says. Arden lists oatmeal (found in this option from Burt's Bees) as a favored ingredient. Baths should not be a daily occurrence, though, as "the oils and normal bacteria that live on [your pup's] skin are an important barrier against infection," according to Morgan. If you notice food or dirt on your puppy's coat, use grooming wipes to spot clean between bath days.
No matter how gentle you are when bathing your puppy, they’ll likely be a bit uncomfortable. Why? "Because one of the reasons that dogs, especially puppies, get so panicked in the bath is because they feel unstable," Arden says. To prevent your dog from slipping around, create some traction with one of these rubber grooming mats. This option from Amazon comes in three bright colors and has a non-slip backing to keep it secure in your shower, according to the brand.
"I would buy wipes because they’re a good tool for freshening your puppy up, but also for getting them used to gentle cleaning and handling," says Arden. "When your puppy is chilled out after a play session or a walk, take out a wipe and gently clean the under part of their paws and their undercarriage," she adds. I use this option from Wild One and shower him with treats when he calmly sits through a cleaning session.
"Daily brushing is important to bring out the oils in the skin and coat, [create] time for you to bond with your pup, and for you to examine their entire body for scrapes, cuts or redness," Morgan says. While your puppy is young, Arden recommends sticking to a brush with very soft bristles. However, as your dog (and their coat) grows, you’ll need a finer tool to avoid tangles and mats. This 2-in-1 option from Burt's Bees can accomplish both of these tasks, as it has a detangling pin brush on one end and a gentle, soft-bristled brush on the other.
Your puppy's dental hygiene is just as important as yours, meaning you should be brushing their teeth daily, Morgan says. If your pup seems hesitant to let you touch their teeth, Arden suggests gradually exposing them to the sensation and doling out treats anytime you see progress. "Touch their muzzle for just a second, then give them a treat. Lift up their lip, then give them a treat. Eventually, they start to get desensitized to you messing with their mouth," she says. She recommends this H&H figure toothbrush for young pups, which you can use with coconut oil as toothpaste, Morgan adds. "It has antibacterial properties and most dogs love the taste."
One thing I heavily underestimated before bringing my puppy home is the amount of time that I would spend cleaning up. Between potty training messes and spilled food, there's always something to wipe up, and having the right supplies on hand is key.
A vacuum that can handle pet hair is essential, especially if you have a breed that sheds. Arden stocks each of her training locations with Dysons — the latest Animal 3 has special detangling features that clear pet hair from the vacuum's brush as it cleans. It even comes with a grooming brush that can remove hair directly from your dog.
Arden calls this stain and odor remover from Skout's Honor "the magic stuff" and I couldn't agree more. I’ve used it to clean up accidents all over my home, making the stain and odor disappear.
After the first few days of cleaning up messes (and blowing through my paper towel budget), I knew I had to find another solution. This pack of twelve microfiber cleaning towels was a quick fix — I can clean up a mess, throw them in the laundry and then reuse them over and over again.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to selecting your puppy's food — everything including their breed and their individual health issues needs to be taken into account. However, the amount of times you feed your puppy is a different story. According to Morgan, all puppies will need to be fed three times a day until they are sixteen weeks old — after that, you can reduce to two feedings. Below are some expert tips to selecting the meals that will support your puppy's growth during this integral stage:
When I brought my puppy home, I wanted to ensure he was as happy and comfortable as possible. However, I quickly learned that being too lenient actually harms both me and my pup — a lack of discipline can delay his understanding of household boundaries and proper social behaviors. "A lot of times, people kill with kindness," Arden says. "Out of the goodness of their heart, they do things that inadvertently set their puppy up to fail." Below, we provide house training methods that not only make the puppy stage more manageable but also set the foundation for a well-behaved dog.
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
Mikhaila Archer spoke to two pet experts to inform the product recommendations and advice included in this piece, while including personal experiences and observations throughout her journey as a new puppy parent.
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Mikhaila Archer is a NBC Page on assignment with Select on NBC News.SKIP AHEAD Crates & Playpens | Collars, Harnesses & Leashes | Food Accessories | Toys & Treat Dispensers | Grooming | Cleaning Supplies | How to shop for dog food | Tips for house training Read the labels Research. Toppers & Supplements. Utilize a crate throughout the day. Be stern with bedding. Monitor food and water intake. Use leash supervision indoors. Find your puppy's high value treats. Dr. Judy Morgan Andrea Arden Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.