What To Buy For A New Puppy: Must-Have Items for First Time Puppy Owners
Wondering what to buy for a new puppy?
Let’s make sure you have all the right stuff before bringing your puppy home.
What fun! A brand-new puppy is coming, and everyone is excited about that puppy breath smell, puppy paws, puppy kisses, and lots of cuddling, not to mention playing with the puppy!! Irresistible! But remember, puppies need a lot of things to make their life in our human home safe, comfortable, and happy.
Just like planning for a new human baby, planning ahead for our new puppy can be fun. Knowing what we will need and having it on hand can alleviate a lot of the stress associated with bringing home a new puppy! Here are the supplies and fun things we’ll want to be sure we have.
Leash and Collar or Harness
One of the first things you need for your puppy is a leash and collar, and a regular leash and collar setup is a good way to start.
The collar is where you’ll attach important identification information – like the dog license, ID, and rabies vaccination tag – in addition to their leash. The leash is helpful for potty training and other simple training in the house, as well as a way to protect your puppy and other people and pets while you are walking your pup in public.
There are many types of collars to choose from! We recommend one with a buckle like a regular belt buckle because it is easy to adjust as your puppy grows. There are quick-release collars as well that snap but for some new pups that sound might be scary.
A harness is a wonderful tool for walks because it gives you options for where to connect the leash. You’ll want one that has both a front and back clip for attaching the leash. The front clip is best for use with a regular leash when you want to keep your puppy close and lead from the front.
The back clip is best for use on long-leash decompression walks when you want to give your puppy more room to roam and explore. If you’re not familiar with “decompression walks,” we cover them in our online course, and our students find they are a great way to exercise their puppies without overstimulating them!
Your puppy’s first training should focus on teaching them to wear a collar. We want to get them used to the dog collar quickly and easily, without scaring them, using positive association.
Quick tip: We play a Bump-It game to slowly introduce the puppy to the leash and collar using training treats.
There are many great leashes, collars, and harnesses to choose from on our products page. Or check out your local pet store to find the one that fits best!
Potty Training Supplies
Potty training starts right away to take advantage of puppy’s most impressionable time! Potty training is much easier when you begin with teaching the importance of going outside to potty. Yes, it can take months for them to really get it, but with time, patience, and training, you and your puppy can do it!
Supplies for potty training? Don’t we just take them outside and plop them down where we want them to go? That might work, but let’s use a better approach. Here’s what you’ll need:
Puppy’s collar and leash
Puppies are easily distracted, so it’s important to use a collar and leash to lead your puppy to the preferred potty place and back indoors after pottying is done.
A designated place outside, preferably surrounded by a potty pen
Your puppy needs a safe outdoor place with few distractions to go potty with some room to roam. After all, it takes some time to find just the right spot to do one’s business! A potty pen helps keep your puppy in a safe, designated potty place while providing the space your puppy needs.
“Dog waste is even more full of disease-causing bacteria and parasites than other types of waste. These bacteria and parasites are harmful to humans and spread disease to other pets.” (Practica, 2017) So it’s important to pick up puppy’s poop right away to ensure your puppy and other pets stay healthy.
We help make potty training a rewarding and memorable experience by giving a dog treat each time puppy goes potty outside.
The right cleaner for accidents
Accidents are inevitable while your puppy is learning bladder and bowel control and how to potty outside. The right cleaner will restore your clean home and remove stains and odors safely when those accidents occur.
A potty log
What? We recommend using a potty log to keep track of how often puppy goes potty, including all accidents so you can begin to know how often you need to help him get outside before he piddles or poops.
Our New Puppy Starter Kit (below) includes a potty log you can download and use right away. It’s our free gift to help you get started with potty training ASAP!
Puppy Pads or Pee Pads? Don’t waste your money! They teach puppy it’s okay to potty indoors, and often become messy chew toys!
Quick Tip: If puppy doesn’t potty when you take him out, walk him 5 or 10 minutes, then go back inside, put him in his crate quietly; give his system about 10 minutes to get moving, and try again with a smile and lots of encouragement!
Let’s Talk Crate and Pen
It’s a good idea to use both a crate and a puppy pen for the first few months while your puppy becomes acquainted with his new home.
The puppy crate provides your puppy a safe, stimulation-free place for napping and sleeping, among other things. A crate is a cozy space, much like your bedroom, that helps your puppy unwind, relax, and sleep.
Size is important in choosing a crate. You want it to be big enough that your puppy can comfortably lay, sleep, and turn around, but not so big that your puppy can pace. There are metal crates with dividers that open up bigger as your puppy grows, but we prefer the plastic crates because they can be comfier and cozier, especially with a blanket over the front.
We emphasize using a crate as a lifetime arrangement for your pup because it will be used in many situations throughout your dog’s life such as:
- Transporting your dog to medical appointments
- A safe, cozy space to recover from surgery
- Taking your pup with you when you travel
- Going to the groomer
- A secure way to evacuate your pup in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.
When a puppy is familiar and comfortable using a crate, it makes stressful situations like these much easier on you and your pup!
The puppy playpen gives your puppy a safe place to play unsupervised without giving too much access to your home and places or things your puppy shouldn’t get into. You’ll want to use a puppy pen while you are busy with household chores or any time you can't keep your eyes on your puppy 100% of the time.
Puppies need to learn it’s ok to spend time away from you while keeping themselves busy (in a safe way). Putting your puppy in a puppy pen for independent playtime helps your puppy build confidence and gives you peace of mind that they can’t get into mischief while you’re busy with other things!
Make sure your puppy pen is on a solid surface like vinyl or linoleum (available at flooring stores) to protect your hardwood or carpet in case puppy has an accident.
It’s a good idea to use a puppy playpen to limit puppy’s access to spaces in your home until puppy has learned to hold his bladder and has graduated out of the chewing or destructive phase. And, when you decide it's time to grant more access to your home, do so gradually by using baby gates to limit puppy's access to a specific room or rooms of the house.
Quick Tip: Avoid putting a blanket or dog bed in the playpen or crate. Young puppies begin teething and will eventually chew on bedding which can make them sick or worse. Puppies are fine on the crate floor, and this will also deter them from wanting to potty on a nice soft and squishy surface like a dog bed.
To learn more about crate training, check out our free resource – the New Puppy Starter Kit – below.
Puppy Training Supplies
The best obedience training tool setup is a regular 4-foot or 6-foot leash and harness combo. Keep in mind your pup wasn’t born wearing these accessories so they may require some training to learn that a leash and harness mean good things happen, like walks or treats.
It’s best to use a harness with both a front clip and a back clip. The front clip when used with a regular leash redirects your puppy’s body back towards you if they start pulling ahead.
The back clip is especially useful for long lead walks, where the lead is 20 – 30 feet long. This allows your puppy to “decompress,” by exploring a quiet area without distractions, much as you might take a walk to clear your head. Once your puppy understands the “Close to me” concept, he will learn to turn back and check-in with you when he reaches the end of the long lead.
You will also want some yummy dog treats your puppy likes so you can reinforce good behavior on your walks. That’s where a treat bag or treat pouch comes in handy. It provides a secure, hands-free place to carry treats so you can easily access them.
Quick Tip: Please don’t use retractable leashes. Both puppies and their owners have been injured with rope burns or by getting tangled in the lead around their legs. The mechanical components inside retractable leashes jam up easily and may leave you or your puppy in an unsafe predicament. Many pups become spooked after a retractable leash has been pulled out of their owner’s hand and dropped accidentally. A frightened pup on the loose can easily run into trouble quickly.
Puppy Supplies for Grooming
Even if you plan to use a groomer for most of your dog’s grooming needs, as a caring puppy owner you will still want to do regular “in-between” grooming with your puppy to keep him healthy and comfortable.
Depending on your puppy’s coat, you will need daily, weekly or monthly brushing, so look for a brush that is compatible with your pup’s type of coat. Your groomer or the folks at your local pet store should be able to help you with that decision.
You will probably also want a dog comb and some grooming products in case you need to clean your puppy up after an accident. There are a variety of brushes and combs; the most important thing is making sure you are able to comb all the way down to the skin and lift up to release the hair to prevent mats from forming.
A common question is: “How often do I need to give my puppy a bath?” Dogs have a different PH balance than humans do so it’s important to avoid over bathing them. Most dogs can be bathed every 4-6 weeks, and some can go 8 weeks in between baths.
Wondering what to use for a bath? You’re not alone! We’re often asked, “Can I just use my own shampoo, or a special dog shampoo, and what about those conditioning shampoos?”
We recommend you use a gentle puppy shampoo to avoid stripping the essential oils from puppy’s skin, which makes your puppy get itchy and start scratching. Depending on how easily your pup’s hair/fur tangles, you might need a conditioning shampoo.
Another, often overlooked part of grooming is dental care. When you take your new puppy into the vet the first time, discuss how best to care for your puppy’s teeth. Be sure to ask what kind of toothbrush or toothpaste is recommended, and how often you should brush puppy’s teeth.
It’s also important to keep your puppy’s nails trimmed. While this is something you can learn to do yourself, it’s important that you get a good nail trimmer that is the right size for your pup’s toes and learn how to do it right. Cutting too much can cause pain and bleeding and make nail trimming a scary experience.
If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your puppy’s nails yourself, you can also arrange for a groomer or your vet to do that regularly for you!
Good Tip: It helps to brush or comb your puppy out carefully before bathing to remove old mats that might get tighter when wet.
Feeding Your Puppy
Of course, every puppy needs to eat and drink, and they need something to eat and drink out of. So let’s talk about food, bowls, and how and where to feed them.
The best person to ask first about feeding your new puppy is their breeder. What is puppy currently eating? Most breeders will give you at least a week’s supply of puppy food with instructions but check in advance and ask what you should get.
You’ll want to keep your pup’s diet consistent for at least the first week or two as he or she settles into this brand-new world of your home, with brand new people, new smells, new sights, and no mom or littermates! Changing a puppy’s food abruptly will most likely cause what could be serious tummy upsets – not the best way to begin a lifetime together.
The next person to ask is your vet. He will understand better what type of food you might want to switch to that will help your particular puppy thrive. Obviously, a Cavalier will need a different food than a Great Dane puppy, whose joints and bones grow so much faster and need different levels of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. We seriously suggest you refrain from asking on a social media site about food because the information you get will be confusing at best, and the misinformation you get could lead to problems!
How much to feed your dog will depend on many factors, including size, weight, age, breed, and activity level. The label on the dog food bag should be one of your guides, as each food has a different caloric makeup, and manufacturers can suggest the proper amount based on the weight of your dog. Keep in mind that manufacturers want you to buy more of their product so their recommended levels may be on the high end of the scale. Again, ask your vet.
We like to start out feeding our pups in their puppy pen and have a water bowl in there for them as well. They will spend their first weeks or even months playing and chilling out in their playpen and feeding them in there discourages them from using it as a potty spot!
Bowls! Wow, talk about lots of choices! Some things to keep in mind is of course the size of your dog, but don’t get one that will be too small in just a few months.
Some pups don’t like bowls at first. It can be that their tag or collar clanking on the bowl bothers them. Some pups react to the shiny surface of stainless steel or ceramic, not liking to see their own reflection or shadow as they eat. (yes, really!) Others get what we call “whisker fatigue” where their whiskers bump or rub on the sides of the bowl – and whiskers are very sensitive.
It may take some trial and error to find the right bowl for your pup. Often matching bowls work well, but if you find your puppy playing in his water bowl, you may need to change to a spill-resistant style.
When it comes to water bowls, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Stainless steel bowls are veterinarians' top choice because they are easy to clean and sanitize. And, yes, it's important to keep your pup's water bowl clean because it can become the perfect breeding ground for yeast, mold, and coliform bacteria which can compromise your puppy's health. So be sure to clean the water bowl daily. Choose a bowl with rubber coating on the bottom to prevent sliding.
If you decide to try plastic water bowls, you'll need to keep an eye out to ensure your puppy doesn't start gnawing on the bowl and accidentally ingest plastic pieces. Ceramic bowls are more durable, but they're porous, so you'll need to be sure to scrub and clean them thoroughly each day.
Some pups will dump their food on the floor, preferring to eat it off a flat surface. Eating off the floor won’t hurt them, and a mat can help with cleanup! If they eat in their playpen the mess won’t spread around the house.
If your pup is eating too fast you can use various slow bowl feeders, puzzle toys, and enrichment activities to slow down the eating process. While these things may slow the consumption rate you will need to work on your pup’s excitement level around food, and impulse control. This will take time and training.
So when do we stop feeding puppy food and switch to regular dog food? Your vet should help with that, because again, giant breed dogs may need the higher nutrient content in puppy food longer than a toy breed.
Quick Tip: We get questions all the time about puppies with diarrhea. Two things to remember with new pups: let your vet know right away because they can dehydrate quickly, and the diarrhea could be caused by anything from stress to parasites, so don’t wait! Pumpkin is good to have on hand but don’t overload them with it – and be sure it’s pure pumpkin, not Pumpkin Pie Filling which has lots of other things that can distress the tummy more.
Toys for Playtime or Training
Okay, you say. We’ve got a leash, collar, harness, potty training supplies, a crate and pen, treats and a treat pouch, grooming supplies, bowls, and food – what about toys??? We want to play with our puppy, and we want him to have some really fun things to play with!
Puppies love playtime and there are lots of different ways that your puppy will want to play with you! You can also use toys as motivation or a reward for training. So much fun lies ahead.
Quick Tip: Walking into any pet store is like a child walking into a toy store – so many cute, adorable and trendy toys! It’s best to use a bit of restraint until you know what kinds of toys appeal the most to your puppy so you don’t waste your budget on toys your puppy doesn’t enjoy.
Balls, chew toys, fetch toys, tug toys, bones – what are the essentials? Some dogs LOVE balls, but some have no interest. Some love to fetch, others love to tug, but really, all puppies love to chew! So let’s start there.
Even chew toys have so many different kinds, strengths (some for your superpower chewer and others for a soft-mouthed pup who never tears up even a stuffed toy, with hundreds in between!), flavors, textures, sizes, – oh my! You’ll need to test a few to assess your pup’s bite strength and learn which toys will last and which are too easily destroyed or even ingested.
Let’s start with the most popular chew toys – Kongs and Nylabones. Both are great toys, good quality, and adaptable as both toys and training tools. A Kong filled with frozen food makes a great lunch while in the crate for a puppy who’s going through a painful teething phase.
Nylabones are also a great chew toy for when your pup is in the crate. They’re safe to give your puppy if you’re not immediately supervising, as long as the Nylabone is not too small or too soft!
Benebones are also really great, come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and flavors. They can give your chewer something to really latch onto!
If your pup develops a “superpower” as a strong, aggressive chewer, there are “Indestructible toys” out there that provide super-chewers lots of fun and give you more peace of mind.
Quick Tip: Be careful that you match the toys to your puppy. A Shih Tzu may not be as big as a Standard Poodle, but your particular little pup may be a super chewer. Cute stuffed toys with squeakers will last forever with some (few) puppies, but others may rip into them and even swallow that squeaker before you realize. Be careful!
Toys can be pricey, so invest in better-quality dog toys that are designed to last a while without being ingested so your puppy won’t end with a blockage from eating chewed-up toy parts. A bone or a ball that is too small can be swallowed and choke your pet – make sure to check chew toys regularly, even daily, to ensure they are still large enough to not get lodged in your dog’s throat.
“Okay, my neighbor’s dog is a huge chewer, so they give him rawhide!” Please, please do not! Rawhide is manufactured using toxic chemicals and cannot be digested by your pup. Ingesting too much can block their intestines. “No-hide” bones are a better alternative but be careful about how and where they are made. Bully Sticks? Again, they can cause digestive upsets, so we don’t recommend them in young pups under three months. And always use for short sessions, making sure to remove them if they get small enough to be swallowed.
What natural chew toys do we love? Aggressive chewers thrive on antlers, such as deer, moose, or elk. Any antler that is too big for your dog can cause chipped or broken teeth, so make sure your Chihuahua or your Boxer each have the right sized antler! There are many split antlers available for your pup’s chewing pleasure.
Dogs love to dig, and if you don’t have an appropriate and safe place for them to do it, they will find inappropriate places to dig. A “busy box” filled with toys, treats, perhaps old towels can give them a chance to dig around. Fill a little toddler pool with “pit balls,” throw in some kibble or tiny treats and watch your puppy dig. There are toys as well on the market, which may save your furniture and carpet down the road!
Toys for training? Pair “Fetch” toys with Recall. Perhaps a quick tug with a toy as a reward. Use toys to “trade up” while teaching your puppy to “Drop it” to get something they value.
We love that Bark Box is a subscription service that periodically sends a box full of the proper type of toys for your little love! It makes finding and testing new toys so fun and easy for you and your pup. Your dog will quickly learn that the box contains treasures for him! And you’ll love having plenty of interesting toys to offer your puppy so she doesn’t get bored.
Are there Breed-Specific Puppy Products?
Yes, and no! Whether your puppy is a purebred with a pedigree, a mixed breed, or a mutt, they are a puppy, and will have more things in common than are specific to their breed. Right now, their breed doesn’t matter much, and later you can find activities that they love.
Want to know your puppy’s ancestry? You may want to try a dog DNA test. Your veterinarian may also provide a good guess about the breed of your pup.
Good Ideas to Have on Hand
Finally, have a place where you keep important records about your pet such as:
- Vaccination records
- Medical history
- Microchip information
- Veterinarian's phone number
Groomer's phone number
- Proof of pet insurance
- Potty log and eating history
Having a file folder that you could easily grab if an emergency comes up is a great idea! That way your vet or pet sitter will have all the information they need.
And lastly, keep your sense of humor, hold onto your patience, be consistent, and remember every single day why you chose this endearing little puppy and the life you are building together with your Dream Dog!
Bringing home a new dog, whether puppy or adult dog, is one of the most rewarding experiences. Setting yourself and your dog up for success from the beginning will be even more rewarding as your dog grows and matures.
Make sure to follow these and our other care and training tips found on our blog to help you train your Dream Dog!
About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.