Taking on a new puppy is a big responsibility, but watching it grow up into a responsible member of the dog community can be one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable.
In this article we will look at what you need to do to prepare to bring your new furry family member home, from what gear and equipment you will need, to what you can expect in the initial weeks of ownership.
Once you have identified your breeder, and have made at least one trip prior to collection to see the puppy with the mum in their home environment you can start to plan for the arrival at your home.
What does my puppy need?
Your puppy will need a collar from the day you bring him home. The collar will hold the dog's identity tag, along with your contact information. It also will allow you to attach a lead / leash and even without a lead attached, they can be very useful as last resort to prevent your puppy getting itself into trouble.
Collars come in a wide range of designs and styles, but for your first collar look for an adjustable nylon type with a double buckle, these can easily be adjusted as your puppy grows, but make sure it is snug, but for safety make sure that you can fit two fingers between the collar and the dogs neck. Your puppy will quickly grow and given half a chance will probably chew her collar, so expect to buy a few collars while your pup is growing up. Also be sure to check out our guide to leather collars.
Lead / Leash
The lead or leash will attach to the collar, and allow you to walk your puppy safely and keep her under control, it will also form a crucial part of your puppy's obedience training. There are many different leads for different uses, but I would start with a basic short lead until you have some lead training under your belt. Leads should be strong and well made (again the puppy will probably chew it given a chance, so always make sure you have a back up). Good leads will have a loop, so you can wrap it around your wrist and prevent your puppy pulling it out of your hand. A good starting point would be a 4 foot leash, as you progress through your dog's training you will start to use longer leads.
I am a complete convert to crate training, I did initially, like many others wonder if it was cruel to "cage" your dog, however when done correctly, you will find you are creating a safe space, that your puppy and later dog will come to view as their space, where they can feel safe, secure and escape from the hustle and bustle of eveyday life for some downtime.
I cover crates in more detail and make some recommendations, in the Best Dog and Puppy Crates and Cages article, however the key points to keep in mind, is that the crate must be a happy place for your puppy to be - they should not be sent their for being naughty, it should be big enough to allow your dog to be comfortable (lie down, turn around, sit, stand, etc). It should not be so big that your puppy decides to have a "toilet area" in it, but you will need to be religious about taking your dog for frequent toilet trips. If you have to leave your puppy for longer periods, consider a puppy pen, to keep your new dog safe and out of trouble.
While it may not seem it when they are at their peak of their energy, puppies need a lot of sleep, therefore a comfy bed is essential from the first night. At first, while house training your puppy will be sleeping in her crate, and will need a bed that will fit, you would be wise to get a machine washable bed as accidents happen, and we all like a clean set of sheets once in a while.
Once you and your pup have mastered house training, there is a massive selection of different types of dog bed available, I will cover these in more detail in another post, but as with a crate, look for ones that are big enough for your dog to turn around and lie in whatever silly positions she likes to get herself in, but small enough that she feels safe and cosy. Raised edges on beds keep out drafts and make them feel secure.
Food and Water Bowls
There is a huge choice of food and water bowls on the market, made from plastic, metal, ceramic, and even glass. Plastic bowls are generally the cheapest, but I always find they are difficult to get properly clean, they are also light and easy to chew and therefore turn in to toys, so I tend to avoid them. Ceramic and glass bowls are heavy by comparison and are difficult for your puppy to pick up and play with, they are unfortunately easy to break if dropped or bashed about by a over excited play session. I therefore prefer the metal types, they are very hygienic, and can be washed by hand or in a dishwasher, they are fairly light so water may get spilt (one of my girls when she was a pup had a fascination with her reflection in the bowl and would splash water everywhere).
Food and Treats
Puppies are tiny when the first come home, but she will have a massive appetite to help her grow quickly into a full grown dog, during this growing phase she will need a lot of calories and a special mix of nutrients to meet her demands. All puppies will require a special "puppy diet" or "puppy food" during their first 12 months, I will be putting together a head to head test soon, but obviously if you find your puppy doesn't agree with her food you should change to a different brand, or if this persists you should seek veterinary advice. If you ever need to change your puppy or dog's food for a different type or brand, always do this slowly over a period of time, slowly mixing in more of the new food and reducing the old.
Treats form an essential part of most dog obedience training, and if your dog is "food motivated", this makes life a lot easier. Treats should only be given to reward good behaviour, some commercial treats can be high in fat content, so check the ingredients before you buy.
All dogs will need grooming to some extent and the sooner you can get your puppy used to both the equipment involved and the process of having all areas of their body prodded, probed, stroked, brushed etc, the better. This will also make your life much easier when visiting the vet or investigating any injuries.
Some grooming equipment you may want or need to consider is below, these may or not be needed depending on the breed and what they get up to.
- Blow dryer
- Bristle brush
- Conditioning spray
- Cotton balls
- Ear cleaning solution
- Grooming table or grooming area
- Nail clippers
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Slicker brush
- Styptic powder
- Toothbrush and dog toothpaste
In the UK it is the law that all dogs must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner attached to it, I also include my telephone number so make getting in touch easier. I do include the dog's name, so whoever finds my dog can calm and sooth them (if for example they had been in an accident), but some people choose not to do this as they feel it would make things easier for a thief if their dog was to be stolen. Dog tags are dead easy to get hold of, check out, this cheaper traditional engraved one , and if you are looking for something more contemporary, look great.
As of April 2016, all dogs in the UK must be microchipped, this cheap and painless process involves injecting a microchip under the skin, which can be read with the right equipment through the dog's coat. Failure to microchip your dog can result in a fine of up to £500.
Read the full article on Dog Identification and UK Law.
Toys are an essential part of your puppy's life growing up, There are toys for chewing, chasing, comforting, you name it, they are available. I'll cover this in more detail, but I would have at least one of each, and it won't be long before your puppy identifies her favourites! Chew toys are an absolute lifesaver, and if you can get your puppy to LOVE one of them, this will be half the battle when they start chewing during teething - the idea being you can distract her away from what ever precious item you don't want her to chew, to the toy she loves.
This list sums up, what you will need before your puppy is welcomed into their new home. Do you have any more ideas or suggestions? I'd love to hear them.