Must-Have Items For Your Puppy


Shopping for the best products for your new puppy can be a blast—and there are an extraordinary amount of items to choose from. In fact, the U.S. pet industry is estimated to be worth $60.59 billion in 2015 (a growth from an actual spending of $58.04 billion in 2014). Walk through any big-box retailer, grocery store, or many of the now available pet boutique stores, and you’ll see dedicated aisles of pet food, specialty toys, plush beds, and even high-end dog haute couture. It’s temping to splurge on your new puppy; but instead, let’s look at some of the essential must-have items that you’ll need to make your pup’s homecoming transition a smooth one.

Collar & Leash

Your new puppy will need a collar and leash the day you pick him up. At the very least, a collar is needed in order to hold your pup’s dog license and identification tags which should contain at least your name and phone number. The leash is for walking your pup, of course!

For the first collar, I would recommend an adjustable nylon type with a two-piece buckle. These type of collars are inexpensive and will be able to accommodate your puppy as he rapidly grow in size. The collar should be snug enough to not slip off, yet not too tight; you should be able to easily slip two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. For young puppies, I recommend a 4-foot leash in order to give you adequate control during walks and puppy training.

I personally recommend the Lupine Dog Collars and Lupine Dog Leashes. Not only are they tough and durable, they are made here in North Conway, New Hampshire (USA) and carry a lifetime guarantee (even if chewed)!

Dog Harness*

An optional item, but one that I highly recommend based on my personal experience. Once leash- and/or harness-trained, I prefer using the harness over the collar. In my opinion, it is more secure (ever had a Boxer or bully breed break loose from a collar before? Not fun!) and reduces the likeliness of injury and trauma on the dog. Depending on which harness you go with, a few that Spock and I use has the added benefits of a functional handle, pannier packs (for item storage), and hydration packs—all useful for extended walks, hikes, and traveling!
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My favorite multi-use harness is the Web Master Harness by Ruffwear which is what you see Spock here proudly adorning! If you need item storage capacity, check out the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack which Spock wears when we go on hikes and long runs.

Dog Crate/Kennel

A must-have for any dog owner. Before I had any dogs as an adult, I had no idea about crate-training. What a lifesaver it is! Since learning of crates, it’s been a wonderful tool to maintain order and provide a safe haven for our dogs. Crates and similar containment devices provide a confined area where you can monitor your new pal and house-train him. Once trained, all of our dogs has always used their crates (which are left with the door open/removed, but covered with a sheet or blanket for privacy) as their private dens and personal getaway from the everyday craziness such as when the kids are being overly rambunctious.

There are many types of crates and containment devices on the market today. Hard-sided, soft-sided, travel carriers, plastic, fiberglass, metal, single-door, double-doors, etc. Any type and style is an excellent choice depending on your personal needs and lifestyle. Although the metal crates will last forever, the lightweight soft-sided and plastic varieties provide convenient and better portability when traveling. My personal favorite is the traditional foldable metal or (galvanized or stainless) steel crate with removable floor pan such as the MidWest Life Stages Double-Door Folding Metal Dog Crate. Although a bit heavy (even when folded), it has been sturdy, secure, and easy to clean—just remove the tray, spray it, scrub it, and/or spray it as needed.

When selecting a crate or carrier, it is important to choose the right size for your dog. Therefore, with a pup, you may need to purchase multiple containment devices in its lifetime if the one you are purchasing lack a divider panel feature. With a divider panel, you can adjust the usable area of the crate/carrier to accommodate your puppy as he grows. A crate should be big enough that he can stand up, lie down, turn around, and comfortably stretch himself inside. However, it should not be excessively large because most dogs prefer to have a den-like environment in order to feel comfortable. In addition, an oversized crate is not conducive in house-training your puppy because he will have additional space to go potty at.

Dog Bed

Depending on your circumstances, this may not necessarily be a must-have item. But if you don’t want your puppy to take over your bed or couch, you will definitely want to invest in a good dog bed! This is especially useful while you are house-training your dog and getting him comfortable with sleeping in his crate.

A blanket or smaller beds covered in fleece or sheepskin is ideal for use in crates to keep your pup warm and cozy while he’s dozing away. After your puppy is house-trained, he can graduate to a real dog bed which includes a wide variety of cushions, pillows, dog-sized couches, and even memory-foam mattresses. For our “green” environmentally conscious pet owners, you can also find beds that are filled with recycled materials such as repurposed cotton and shredded soda bottles. There are also beds stuffed with cedar chips to help with odor control and repel insects.
BarkThink Tip: If your pup is a chewer, you should remove any stuffed bedding from his crate to prevent any possible intestinal blockage. Substitute with a blanket or towel until he is out of his chewing phase or only use the bed with supervision.

Based on my experience, until your dog is at least 18 months old and 100% house-trained, I would recommend a bed with a washable cover AND waterproof liner. Most dog beds on the market today has some type of removable, washable cover; but there are few that are available with a waterproof liner which is extremely helpful when dealing with any puppy accidents.

Be sure to be conscientious and do when your research when shopping for dog beds—not all dog beds are made the same! We once had a bed that was marketed as having a ‘washable and removable cover’, but it was basically a zippered canvas sack with repurposed cotton inside. So…when we had to wash this cover, we had a heap of loose cotton shreds that we have to place in a basket somewhere so it won’t get lost. On the other hand, we have also had a memory foam mattress with a DIY waterproof liner and canvas washable cover. All that had to be done was remove the cover to wash, clean the spoiled area on the liner, and place the clean cover back onto the mattress. Done!

Food & Water Bowl

Your new canine pal will need his own set of pet bowls for food and water when he comes home. There is an overwhelming number of dog bowls on the market today—there are plastic, stainless steel, ceramic, glass, silicone, auto-dispensing, slow-feeding, etc. Which one you choose from should be based on your own preference, needs, and budget. But let’s look at some of the material options.

The least expensive and most common options are plastic bowls. While most are now dishwasher safe, food residue and bacteria can still hide and fester in-between the cracks of plastic bowls that has been dented or scratched. For teething and chewing pups, the plastic can also become a health hazard if he accidentally breaks a piece off and ingest it. If you decide to go with plastic dog bowls, be sure to select a durable, dishwasher safe bowl, and replace it when it begins to show signs of wear.

Ceramic dish ware, stoneware, and glass bowls are heavier and less likely to be used as toys; however, they are typically pricier, breakable (shatter), and may contain lead. When purchasing these types, ensure that they are dishwasher safe and lead-free. For ceramic, you will also want to replace the bowl when there are signs of cracks or chips. Similar to plastic, these signs of wear can harbor bad bacteria and may lead to further breakage which can be ingested by your puppy.

Stainless steel pet bowls, while usually more expensive, are the best choice and the type that many dog owners strongly recommend. Durable, non-porous, and non-leaching; stainless steel also carries enough heft that it won’t be kicked around on the floor or flipped over as easily. The majority of raised feeders and custom-carved pet bowl holders also use stainless steel bowls.

Puppy Food & Dog Treats

Your new puppy may be small, but he will have a big appetite and high calorie demands to give his body the energy necessary to develop healthy bones, teeth, skin, and coat. In fact, during the first 4 months, an 18lbs puppy has a daily energy need of 1,015 calories! As a result, your puppy will need a diet specifically created just for his demanding energy and nutritional needs.

These special diets are formulations often labeled for puppies or “for growth and development.” Besides from having a higher protein content and the proper ratio of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals; these formulations also usually contain helpful ingredients for neurological (brain) and retinal (eye) such as Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Besides being a delicious snack, treats are useful as motivational tools in the training and conditioning your puppy as he learns proper manners, obedience, and good behavior. Due to a large number of treats being full of fillers and unhealthy ingredients, I encourage you to look at the nutritional labels when you are buying treats. Personally, I prefer healthier options such as natural treats such as Zuke’s Mini Naturals Dog Treats or single-ingredients products such as Stewart Freeze Dried Treats and smoked salmon bites.
BarkThink Tip: Remember, the treats should be small in order to avoid overfeeding and allow you more opportunities to reward good behavior. As a reference guide, treats should be about the size of your pinky fingernail whereas a reasonable size for a large dog is about the size of your thumbnail. As with humans, too much of a good thing can be unhealthy for your puppy—use treats with moderation and monitor your dog to ensure good health and weight.

Pet Grooming Supplies

Depending on your puppy’s breed, there may be several or only a handful of items that you will need to properly care for him. However, for all intents and purposes, BarkThink will suggest a small list of must-haves for new puppy owners.

Shampoo. For the most part, dogs shouldn’t need to be washed with shampoo on a regular basis. A thorough cleaning once every month or every few months is suggested to maintain healthy natural oils—water baths in-between as needed is fine. Therefore, splurge a little and look for a shampoo with high quality ingredients because one standard 16 oz bottle (using the mentioned guidelines) should last about a year. When reviewing the labels, strive for a formulation that does not use any artificial fragrances or colors added to the shampoo. Natural skin moisturizers such as vitamin E, honey, aloe vera, oatmeal, and tea tree oil are some great ingredients to look for. One of our favorite right now is the Sentry’s Hawaiian Ginger Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo with Oatmeal. Unlike many brands, this one covers all of the essentials needs (flea, tick, and coat care) while having an outstanding and pleasant scent!

Nail Clipper and styptic powder*. In my opinion, this is one of easiest grooming practice you can do yourself and save modest amount of money in the long-term.

Consider the savings: If you use the vet or professional groomer to trim your dog’s nails once every 3 months at an average price of $10, it’ll cost $400 over 10 years!

There are a few options available on the market for clipping your dog’s nails, the popular ones being scissor type clippers, guillotine style trimmers, or grinders (like a dremel). I do not like guillotine-style clippers because of the way it works—when dull, it basically crushes the nail. Grinders worked great and resulted in extraordinarily smooth nails; however, it’ll take some time to get your dog use to the high-spinning RPMs on the device. On the bright side, it is not as easy to accidentally cut into your puppy’s nail quick with a nail grinder!

These days, I usually go for the Safari Professional Nail Trimmer For Dogs. In my experience, scissor clippers are easy to use, quick, and remains sharp longer. The only downsize I’ve had is that (like human nail clippers) it does not leave a smooth nail without some minor nail filing. Styptic Powder is not necessary; but is good to have on hand if you ever accidentally clip into your pup’s quick in order to quickly stop the bleeding.

Toothbrush and Dog Toothpaste. As the popular saying goes, prevention is better than the cure. You can typically expect a $200+ vet bill when taking your dog for dental cleanings, it is less expensive if your dog can tolerate someone working on his teeth and not require anesthesia.

Periodontal disease—a preventable clinical condition occurring in adult dogs that can cause multiple problems in the oral cavity and may be associated with damage to internal organs in some patients—continues to be a growing issue that many pet owners does not consider seriously. Brushing your dog’s teeth is the most effective way to maintain oral health between professional dental examinations and minimize the plaque (bacterial film) build-up that causes periodontal disease.

While the poultry or beef-flavored toothpaste such as Petrodex Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste work great, I’ve always opted for the KissAble Dog Toothpaste for the added benefit of giving your pup some sweet vanilla and minty (tea tree) smelling breath!

Flea Comb. Until you experience a flea outbreak, you do not realize how useful this tool is. It is relatively inexpensive (the fancy ones seems to work just as well as the cheap ones to me); but is an effective way to check your pup for any unwanted hitchhikers before it gets out of control.

Dog Fur/Coat Brush. The need for a good dog brush will vary upon your puppy’s coat(s) and your personal preference. I would highly recommend a quality brush for long-haired breeds to help manage their coats, prevent matting, and minimize shedding. For owners of puppies with short coats, this is optional. I’ve traditionally had short-haired dogs and have found that defurring tools certainly help; but is not a complete necessity. Due to my laziness to brush my short-haired dogs’ coats, I usually end up with random small patches of hair on furniture throughout the year—this can usually be remedied with a good, reliable lint roller though…

Identification & Licenses

In case he gets lost, your puppy should have some form of identification to help him find his way back home to you. The two most popular options are identification (ID) tags and microchips—It is recommended that you use both.

An ID tag, typically constructed from plastic or metal, attaches to your puppy’s collar and should contain essential information such as your contact information, location, and any medications or health issues he may have. This way, someone can easily contact you regarding your lost puppy and can provide him with the proper care/medication if necessary.

BarkThink Tip: Be sure to check with your local laws and regulations in case you need to purchase pet licenses for your puppy. Here in Minnesota, all dogs are required to be licensed and are also required to have an off-leash dog permit in order to access the local county/city dog parks.

I may be a bit weird, but there are two things I would recommend against on an ID tag—your pup’s name and your physical address. After hearing numerous stories of dognappings and theft, I avoid putting my dogs’ names on their tags to help prevent criminals who may try to lure them after seeing their names. While you may not want to put your home address, I do encourage you putting some kind of information regarding your local or regional area. For example, instead of your physical address, you can put information regarding your city and/or state. My aversion to publishing your physical address on ID tags is due to the overwhelming number of crazies in today’s society, you never know who may end up at your door! Again, maybe I’m just overthinking things…to each his/her own.

Dog Toys

Whether it is a stuffed KONG dog chew toy, a bouncy ball, a cotton rope tug toy, or squeaky bone, puppies love their playthings! Toys can typically be categorized into the following categories: chew toys, fetching toys, rope and tug toys, plush toys, and critical thinking toys. Each one has their unique benefits and uses, so feel free to take your puppy to your local pet store to find out what he likes best!

For new puppies, the two types of dog toys that I highly recommend are KONGs and teething/chew toys.

KONGs, or similar treat stuffed toys such as the PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude Dog Toy, has been an incredibly useful tool in keeping my pups mentally stimulated and occupied for extended periods of time. For dogs with anxiety or similar conditions such as submissive peeing, it can also be used to help divert your dog’s focus and provide calming comfort. At one point, I had a basket with four KONGs that I used in rotation for our Boxer to help keep her mentally stimulated and minimize destructive behavior.

Depending on your dog, the chewing phase can be a tolerable short period or a relentless and challenging phase that will make you want to pull your hair out. Your puppy will begin to experience active chewing when he begins to develop his adult teeth at around the 4-6 months mark. However, despite what many people believe, your pup is likely to go through a second phase (at between 7 to 12 months of age) of teething known as adolescent chewing which is driven by the discomfort in your puppy’s jawbone, your puppy’s desire to learn about his environment, or a combination of both. This dreaded second chewing phase will largely vary between dogs and can last anywhere from an additional 6 to 12 months. However, most dogs are typically fully over their chewing phase by 18 months of age, while others are completed by 24 months (2 years old).
There are several dog teething products and chew toys on the market; however, most are not as durable, well-made, or safe as I would like. More often than not, these ‘chew toys’ quickly become shredded toys and can become health hazards for your puppy. Therefore, my suggestions would be for durable and safer options such as natural bully sticks, organic antler sheds (preferably with the marrow inside), rawhide (this is debatable depending on which school of dog thoughts you agree with), or Nylabone Dura Chew Combo Pack. All of these are excellent options that I’ve had no issues with; but until you get a good understanding of your pup’s tendencies and behaviors, I would highly recommend you provide your puppy with these items with supervision.

Pooper Scooper/Disposable Waste Bags

Based on my experience, most disposable waste bags are largely similar to one another. The main differences between brands is thickness and scents. If you have a low tolerance for dealing with your puppy’s waste, look for a brand/type with a tolerable scent (lavender is great!) and thicker ply such as Earth Rated’s Lavender-Scented Dog Waste Bags. Or, if you are fortunate to have a fenced backyard, you have the advantage of being able to use a long handled pooper scooper! Please follow common courtesy and remember to pick up after your canine companion!

Shop around for the best prices and purchase these items before your puppy comes home with you. This way, you’ll have more time to spend playing with him and getting him comfortable in his new home! With these essential products in hand, you will be well-prepared to welcome your new dog into his forever home.


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