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Puppy Checklist

Bringing home a new puppy can be exhilarating, but it can also be daunting at the same time. If you do not have a human child and the puppy is your first foray into parenthood, being prepared is half the battle. Who better to take advice from than someone who lived through it? My wife and I brought home a three-month-old Whoodle (Wheaten Terrier/Poodle mix) named Poppy. We do not have any kids, so this was the first time another life became dependent on us. Putting that into perspective, we were nervous, to say the least. When we picked her up, we had nothing but a blanket to wrap her in for the 2-hour drive home. I wish we had this article to reference beforehand. I'm going to break down what you need on the first day, and some additional niceties that can wait.

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Items you will need before you bring home your puppy:

1. Collar, leash, and dog tag
2. Food and water bowls
3. Stain and odor remover spray
4. Crate
5. Dog shampoo
6. Dog food
7. Poop bags
8. Dog toys

Day 1 of Bringing Home Your Puppy

Prior to picking up your puppy, you'll want to have already purchased a few items. A collar, leash, and dog tag are essential. You will want to have control of your puppy at all times. Depending on your training technique, these items will help keep your puppy near you when it's time to begin training. Keep in mind to estimate the size of your dog over the next couple of months so you can get a collar that fits correctly as your puppy grows. We bought a 6 foot leash, which we thought was long enough for some freedom but still short enough to control.

Food and water bowls are next. Look for stainless steel bowls, as they are easy to clean and will last a lifetime with proper care. Mark one bowl for food and another for water. You'll also want to plan to adjust your puppy's eating habits. You may not know this until you feed your puppy for the first time, but a number of dogs practically inhale their food without chewing. There are many products available to help slow down the feeding of dogs, like this specialized pet food bowl that helps distribute food so not all is available to consume at once. It makes your dog work for it, thus, slowing down the eating process. A cheaper alternative is to just put a tennis ball or chew toy on top of the food to make your puppy work to get around it to eat. Finally, it's good to put a towel or pee pad underneath the bowls to catch or absorb any spilled food or water.

If your home has carpeted floors, it is without question you will need some sort of stain and odor remover. It's not a matter of if but a question of when your fur baby will have an accident in the house. When that happens, you will need to be ready with a urine remover to treat the area. If you do not remove the stain and odor, your puppy will pick up on that scent and there's a high chance they will go again in the same area. Eliminating the odor is key to help curb that habit behavior. We bought the Nature's Miracle Urine Destroyer pour bottle and an additional gallon for subsequent accidents.

For our puppy, we needed to have a crate. We wanted to have her crate trained so we wouldn't have to worry about her roaming around at night; as well, it simultaneously served as an introduction to housetraining her. It's also psychologically beneficial because it's the dog's sanctuary, and replicates a den in the wild where they feel safe and secure. We wanted a crate that would be big enough to accommodate her as she grew. The MidWest Double Door Folding Metal Dog Crate did the trick because it has a divider that can be moved as your dog grows into it. If you give dogs the entire crate at the beginning, they're more likely do their business on one side of the crate and sleep on the other. To deter this behavior, set the divider so your dog can walk in and turn around and not have much more room than that. If accidents happen, most crates have a plastic bottom to make clean-up a snap. If your puppy will be sleeping in the crate, it's best to add a blanket or towel to make it more comfortable to lay on. Keep in mind there might be an accident in the crate anyway, so use a towel or blanket you won't mind throwing away.

Dog shampoo almost goes hand in hand with puppy accidents. The first night we brought home Poppy, she had an accident in her crate, which, in turn, got all over her legs and paws. Having dog shampoo ready to go was important in keeping her clean. A mild shampoo that is oatmeal-derived or is all-natural is usually safe for dogs. We recommend Colloidal Oatmeal Dog Shampoo or Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo. Keep in mind to not wash your puppy too frequently, as it will strip the natural oils from their coat.

Dog food is an obvious must-have. When you pick up your puppy, talk to the original owner or shelter to see what they fed your puppy. Ask if you can take some home with you or where they bought that particular brand. If you do not want to stay on that brand, you can transition your puppy off of that food onto the one you want. It's best to do this over multiple days by gradually decreasing the ratio of the old food, adding more of the brand you want to feed your dog. In any case, it's best to do your due diligence on what type of puppy food is best. If you are going grain-free, we recommend Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dry Puppy Food. If you do not want to go grain-free, we recommend Purina Pro Plan Puppy Dry Dog Food. Talk with your vet and decide what's best for your pup.

With dog food comes poop bags. Be sure to have these ready for any accidents in the house, or for cleaning up outside whether it is at your residence or on a walk. The bags we recommend are made from recycled materials, are leak-proof, and smell like lavender. Because, why not?

Dog toys will help keep your puppy engaged and entertained. However, purchasing toys alone will not guarantee that your shoes won't be drafted into service as a chew toy. Since you do not initially know what your puppy will be interested in, it's best to have multiple toys of differing textures. We recommend the KONG Puppy Toy, ZippyPaws Skinny Peltz Squeaky Plush Toys, and the Benebone Wishbone Durable Dog Chew Toy, the last of which is infused with either real bacon, chicken, or peanut. The different shapes, sizes, and textures will help ensure your puppy will find a toy they like. Don't throw away the ones your puppy doesn't seem as interested in; in time, they may move on to another that they might not have shown interest in at first.

Day 2 and Beyond

Taking your puppy for regular walks is one of the easiest ways to develop a strong bond, in addition to providing much-needed exercise. Some say a harness is a necessity, but you can be the ultimate judge of that. In the beginning, it wasn't an essential item for us; we simply attached the leash to the collar. We did purchase a harness eventually, and we now use it every time we take Poppy on a walk.

For us, a dog bed wasn't as important because she still sleeps in the crate with some blankets. The crate is roomy enough, and she enjoys going in and laying down on her own. We bought a dog bed when she was 7 months old, and she still hardly uses it. We are hoping that she will eventually use it overnight, but in the meantime, she likes to use it for naps or just lounging around while we cook dinner.

Dog treats didn't make the necessity list because we used her regular dry puppy food as a treat. It cut down on an extra cost, and it helped her transition to her new food. If you insist on buying treats, they come in many sizes, flavors, and shapes. Pick any that you feel is appropriate, but make sure you don't spoil your puppy or the treats will lose effectiveness.

A dog bell can be used to help train your puppy to alert you when they need to go outside to do their business. We did not initially know about this training method until we started to watch YouTube videos and began talking to friends. If you do not have a doggy door, the bell is a method we wholeheartedly endorse. We purchased the CandyHome Dog Doorbell, which sits on the door handle. Another method is to secure it to the wall adjacent to the door. If you want to go that route, we recommend the barkOutfitters GoGo Bell Dog Doorbell.

An airtight food container will keep your puppy food fresh, and prevents unauthorized access. It will also help declutter your home and keep things looking tidy. The IRIS 3-Piece Airtight Pet Food Container includes wheels, two airtight containers, and a scoop for measuring.

Puppies are a lot of work, but also very rewarding. Having the items mentioned above will make your first interaction with your puppy less stressful knowing that you are prepared with the right tools. Enjoy them while they are little, because they sure do grow up fast!

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