Last year I wrote our "Top 20 Must-Haves for Bringing Home Your Puppy" list and have seen an astronomical amount of interaction from you guys - thank you! This year, since inflation is being felt across all the various industries, I decided to go back through my must-haves list, select some cheaper alternatives, and try to get the "New Puppy Checklist" under $250.
I'll tell you right now it was TOUGH but I think we did a decent job...
Getting our list under $250
I checked all of the links from my previous post and tried to find better pricing on Petsmart, Petco, and Chewy. While Petsmart, Petco, and Chewy match most of Amazon's prices, Amazon was still, in my opinion, the most consistent and convenient option.
I also took out other items that are nice to have and that you should have but can improvise, like using ceramic bowls or a Pyrex container from your kitchen for dog food. You can use a folded blanket as a bed. You can use Windex (ammonia) or soap and water to clean urine in lieu of Urine Remover Spray... you get my drift.
Top 13 Things You Need Before Bringing Home Your New Puppy
The following items are the most necessary items you should have on hand when your new puppy comes home. No doubt there may be things you want to buy but this is the list of needs.
Crate (MidWest 30" Crate)
Poop Baggy Holder and Poop Baggies (Economical Poop Bags)
Harness or Collar (Ruffwear Front Range Harness)
Name tag with contact info (Amazon Basic Tag)
Leash with a carbine buckle (Vivaglory Leash with Traffic Handle)
Toys (Check out our favorite toys post)
Pet Insurance (Ours is around $50+/mo.)
Dog Food (Be sure you are in compliance with your Health Guarantee)
First Puppy Appointment with a Veterinarian and Vaccinations Package ($250+)
The last three items are in red because they are not factored into this list but are super important to budget! I explain why below.
Breakdown of each of the items
Crate training helps your little one with potty training by encouraging him or her to wait for extended periods of time and to wait to go to the bathroom until released from the crate (dogs will naturally try NOT to potty in their sleeping area). It establishes healthy and uninterrupted sleep patterns (I kick Mara all night, poor soul) and develops a safe and personal place to go when he or she needs some space.
This also means they have a designated place to go during feeding, when the doorbell rings, when you have people over, etc. It is comparable to asking a child to go play in his or her room for a bit.
Little break for them, little for you, you’re welcome.
I purchased the 30″ Midwest iCrate Double Door Fold and Carry Dog Crate for a <20 pound full grown mini Goldendoodle. It is large, so if you have an apartment or a condo, get out a tape measure and make sure that you will have a decent place to put it before you buy it.
It is definitely an eye sore (that green sticker on the front door in the photo does not come off easily), but if attractiveness is a big issue for you, you can purchase a crate cover from Etsy (pretty expensive) or channel your inner DIYer and nerd out in the fabric department at Joann’s (less expensive and more fun). BUT THIS IS THE BUDGET POST - you want the bougie stuff, this post ain't for you.
The crate comes with a divider panel so that it can be made to feel smaller while your pup is teeny and can be adjusted as they grow. Mara was only 3.4 pounds when I got her, so the divider was helpful in creating a cozy environment despite her size. If the crate is too big, your new puppy may potty inside. It should be just big enough for them to stand up, turn around, and comfortably stretch.
It has a concave, hard plastic bottom so that any accidental leaks or spills will be collected before reaching your beloved floors, and comes with little rubber feet in the event you are worrying about the metal scratching them. It also folds flat and is simple to transport which was incredibly helpful when traveling back and forth to my parents’ house. You can fold a blanket and lay it in the bottom to make it more cozy for your little babe.
This particular crate has two access points (the front and side respectively) which is nice if you have a smaller home and need to be able to play with where it will fit.
EASY COST SAVING Tip
Get the single-door crate instead. It is about 40% cheaper; however, it may not fit in your space properly with the door location. Amazon Prime has quick delivery and easy returns - I'm assuming you already have Amazon Prime but if you don't, here is a link to a 30-day free trial. Buy all your puppy goodies within 30 days and you save the $14/mo. on Prime.
Single-door: $41.99 Amazon (Cost savings of $29.94 from double-door crate)
All in all, this is a great choice for a durable, inexpensive crate that can be used at home or away, and from puppyhood through adulthood.
2. PUPPY PADS
If you have a yard and plan to be very active in potty-training your puppy (straight from crate to outside), potty pads may not be necessary. They were extremely necessary for me because I lived in a condo and there was no quick access to outside (I am not a huge fan of porch potties although they are genius). Ultimately, most breeders have started potty training the pups before they come home so if you are willing to put in that effort and crate train properly, you don't need to buy puppy pads.
For purposes of this post, I am still including because MOST people live in apartments and condos and will need the assistance of pads at the beginning.
The best deal I could find was at Chewy (and these are the ones I used):
I wouldn't get too crazy about which ones you buy - find a good deal and snag it. The ones above worked phenomenally and I would buy them again. Plus, Chewy ships pretty quickly so buying an off-brand from Amazon for two-day shipping doesn't get it too you that much faster - and they are a few dollars more. Those would be fine too, though.
I mean seriously.. they pee on them and I don't think the absorbency is an issue for an 8-week old puppy. Get the least expensive you can find.
3. POOP BAGGY HOLDER AND POO BAGGIES
Poo baggies are poo baggies. Buy as many for as little as you can. Don't play into the "organic" or "good for the Earth BS" - here is a good read on some unfortunate truths about these "better for the world" baggies: https://www.rover.com/blog/reviews/truth-about-biodegradable-poop-bags/
Easy COST SAVING TIP
If you live in an apartment or a condo, chances are that the complex provides poo baggy and trash stations to ensure their property is staying tidy. You can take a few baggies with you and tie them to the O ring on your leash while you're walking around and not have to worry about buying them.
If you plan to take your dog on walks and don't have access to free poo baggy stations, I would buy a big box of generic Amazon poo baggies that will last you a long while. We buy this big box for Mara and Logan and buy it probably once every 9 months to a year. Pretty economical.
4. HARNESS OR COLLAR
This is a tough "this or that" moment. When training, a collar is definitely a better option because you are guiding by their head and face which leads the body. When playing or on a walk, I prefer a harness because it is easier to grab and is less likely to get caught on anything that can strangle your pup - yes, it happens with collars and it is scary.
I have recommended the Ruffwear Front Range Harness to everyone (literally) who has asked me how I got Mara to walk so well on a leash when she was a puppy. When the leash is clipped into the front loop, it pulls from the front of the dog’s body. This means that if your dog starts to pull, the angle of the leash pulling front the front clip backward will force the body to the right or left, naturally disrupting the walk pattern. It teaches them that when the leash is loose (aka they aren't pulling), they can walk normally and comfortably.
I only had to use the front clip a handful of times before she got with the program. Every person that we have recommended this harness to has thanked me. So, you’re welcome.
Also, CHECK THE RUFFWEAR SIZING CHART. Mara wears an XXS and XS in Ruffwear products.
It is on the pricier side so here is an alternate option
(I have not tried, it just functions similarly):
Mind you this isn't the cutest harness on the planet but it is a training tool. They will grow out of it and you can graduate to a nicer, more decorative harness with a normal back-clip.
Some people will 1000% disagree with my use of harnesses and that is ok. I understand the importance of training with collars and understand that using a harness on bigger breeds is just asking to be pulled, but Mara is 16 pounds and pulling is not an issue.
5. Name Tags
Name tags are one of those fun things you get to design and personalize when you get a new puppy. When I was shopping for all of my new puppy things, I spared no expense. I ended up buying a custom rolled leather collar for $55 from the UK and a $30 ID tag from Metal Hounds on Etsy. Mara outgrew the collar pretty quickly and the contact info on the tag became outdated... there went $100.
When I moved in with Matt and added his phone number to Mara's tag and added my number to Logan's tag, we ordered these ones from Amazon for less than $5. They are inexpensive but get the job done. Plus, since Matt is a firefighter/paramedic, the generic fire hydrant design was actually really precious.
DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT buy a leash with a spring hook clasp (pictured below). Because puppies are jumpy and wiggly, the hook from the harness can get lodged in the opening and easily prop the clasp open.
NO - Spring Hook Clasp
When Mara was just learning to walk outside, I started introducing her to new sights and sounds, including busy streets. One day, Mara was startled by the noise of a motorcycle, jumped on my friend’s leg, and dislodged her harness from the leash… NEXT TO THE STREET WITH CARS WHIZZING BY.
Luckily my friend heard it unclasp right away and was able to grab her, but if she would have been startled again and bolted away, she absolutely could have been hit by a car and killed.
THIS HAPPENED TWICE before I said I am getting a new leash.
I LOVE the Vivaglory Dog Leash that I have now. Is it the cutest? No. Heck no. But it is extremely convenient and inexpensive. The handles (a traffic handle for close maneuvering and a standard handle for normal functioning) are reinforced with soft neoprene and the leash material is very thick and sturdy. Most importantly, the clasp is a carbine buckle so the leash stays securely fastened to her harness.
YES - Carbine Buckle Clasp
I 10/10 recommend a leash with a traffic handle. A traffic handle is a short handle that pulls your dog close to your body when walking past people and dogs on the sidewalk, walking through crowds, and when training “heel” and other proximity commands.
7. High-Quality treats
When I started Mara in Puppy Preschool and Obedience school, it was mandated that I bring "high value" treats so that despite all of the new distractions, Mara would focus on me and the deliciousness of the prospective reward.
Throughout the course of a 50 minute class, Mara consumed a substantial amount of treats - regardless of how small I tried to break it into pieces. After the first class, Mara had explosive diarrhea. I chocked it up to being nervous since she was only 14 weeks old and this was her first socialization with other dogs, but after this pattern was repeated in class #2 and #3, I realized that the fatty, greasy (but I'm sure delicious) bacon treats I purchased for class were most likely the cause.
That is when I did my research and came across the 3 best all-natural treats in the world - in my opinion.
*The last option is a dog chew, so you wouldn't use in class; however, it is always nice to have chews that can keep your pup busy for a few minutes. It takes Mara numerous days to finish a No-Hide Chew.
I go into more detail about each of these treats in my post "Top 3 Healthy Dog Treats for a Picky Goldendoodle" if you are interested in reading more about what makes these three options so special.
These treats aren't just for puppies, I still purchase these treats to this day!
Grooming, oh grooming. This section is specific to wavy and curly Goldendoodles.
There is really no way around the grooming tools you'll need as a doodle parent. To be completely honest, you probably don't need these right away because puppy hair doesn't mat like adult hair does but you should definitely have these tools on hand once their hair starts growing longer.
Check out our Top 3 Grooming Tools post for more information about hair care and the tools I included in this budget. Those three most important items are the following:
9. SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER
I was originally obsessed with Cowboy Magic products, as most doodle moms are. It hass kind of become a random cult following because their detangling serum is incredible for keeping curly doodle hair from matting after a bath or after swimming (we have it readily available for all our guests after a pool party).
After moving into Matt's house and raiding all the cabinets (this is normal, right?), I found an incredible shampoo called Hylyt. It is SO HARD TO FIND but it is incredible. The description says it "is a gentle, hypoallergenic, soap-free formulation with natural moisturizing factors and essential fatty acids for luxurious cleansing of normal, dry or sensitive skin."
YOU.GUYS. What it should say is "lathers so easily and feels like velvet, smells like a coconut-inspired Tahitian vacation (are there coconuts in Tahiti?), rinses clean, and leaves the hair behind feeling soft, fluffy, yummy-smelling, and healthy."
This shampoo is a total game changer. I just used the last of the bottle we had and have had the hardest time finding it in a normal sized bottle. The only ones I find are on Rx sites like 1-800-PetMeds and such. Literally purchasing the one you see above (with the 3% Rakuten discount!)
They only sell gallon jugs of it for groomers and vet offices on Amazon for like $90+... I can't afford that.. If you can 1) you're in the wrong post, but 2) here you go: most amazing shampoo in the world.
IT IS NOT THE CREME RINSE so don't be fooled if you see that online. It is not the same.
10. Dog Toys
When Mara first came home I bought her a Snuggle Puppy because I thought she would love the little heartbeat and it would make her feel like she was still sleeping with her siblings and mom. The battery ran out within two days and it ended up being the most expensive stuffed animal I've ever purchased. In my opinion, not worth it.
The BEST alternative to Snuggle Puppy is the Gosig Golden from Ikea. It is less than $10 and is, hands-down, Mara's favorite toy. She hugs it and plays with it like it is her best friend.
It is absolutely precious.
Like the Golden Gosig, there are numerous toys that stand out from the rest. I included a bunch of pictures of Mara's favorites in my post "3 Inexpensive Dog Toys Your Goldendoodle Will Love". ZippyPaws has the CUTEST toys and are constantly coming out with relevant and seasonal burrow toys and plushies.
I mean seriously... how adorable are these? HomeGoods usually has some cute ones and Amazon is a great buying option for most of the toys on the ZippyPaws site, but there are some that you can really only find on the original site - and those happen to be a little more expensive. I wouldn't spend more than $15 on a burrow toy. There are enough deals out there to find one for cheaper.
Items not included in the $250 Budget
The following items are excluded from this list. It is not fair to include these in the budget because of how variable (and subjective) they are. A lot of people do not believe in pet insurance - which is totally ok! Some people feed less expensive kibble and some people feed more expensive raw food. It is just not realistic to include them above.
Insurance - Budget $50-60/mo.
Dog Food - Budget $30-300/mo.
Initial Vet Visit and Vaccinations Package w/Spay and Neuter - Varies
Let's quickly look at these three excluded items.
11. PET INSURANCE
Having pet insurance is really a matter of personal opinion. You either pay monthly (or annually) and get partially to fully reimbursed if there is an emergency or you pay full out-of-pocket costs at the vet’s office. I have Fetch by Dodo (formerly known as Pet Plan) and I have had a great experience working with them. Mara had many stomach issues as a baby - insurance was a lifesaver.
So often I hear people contemplating whether they want to get a specific procedure done, run a specific test, etc. at the potential detriment of their dog because it is expensive. If you have insurance, that $3,500 hip surgery might be $350. That is a no brainer to me.
NOW WITH THAT BEING SAID, sometime insurance does not make sense. When I met Matt, I looked into insurance for Logan because he looked a little chonky and I was nervous he would eventually get diabetes or have hip problems the vet did not think he had currently (I checked all his vet notes). It would not make financial sense to get him insurance - quoted at almost $500/mo.
Even paying for insulin every month would only be around $200/mo. versus $500 - Tucker had diabetes and that is how much we used to pay. Putting $50/mo. away in a separate account for Logan's health emergencies is more financially prudent at this point. Math is magic, people!
Most insurance policies do not include spay/neuter, vaccinations, fecal exams, or any kind of preventative care, so be mindful of these things when shopping around. It is really for emergencies and when things are wrong. Pet Plan, now Fetch by Dodo, includes the exam fee if you are visiting a vet for a specific reason, which is why I have stayed with them for 3 years. A few other popular insurance companies are:
ASPCA (I think they include spay/neuter)
The only reason I included this section is to remind you that if you purchase pet insurance, you should allow enough time for the waiting period to elapse (mine was 14 days) before your little baby comes home. The millisecond your puppy is in your possession you want to be sure the insurance covers you. Heaven forbid you get in a car accident on the way home or your puppy has an allergic reaction to a cashew or an M&M one of your kids left in the back seat of the car.
12. Dog Food
I am not going to get into dog food in this post because most breeders make you feed a specific food in order to be in accordance with the terms of the Health Guarantee. I am not a vet, nor a dog nutritionist and do not feel comfortable telling you what food is best for YOUR dog and YOUR situation.
I entered pet parenthood with every intent to feed raw. I tried at least 5 separate brands of raw and dehydrated raw food and it never sat well with Mara's sensitive stomach. I moved to cooked food and fed lean ground beef, turkey, and chicken with carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. That was unsustainable.
I finally moved to feeding Mara kibble and as cringy as it is, it is the ONLY food that hasn't given her any problems. In fact, since she has eaten kibble she has grown an iron stomach and can now eat veggies, meats, and treats without any tummy issues.
Ask your vet what they recommend at your first puppy appointment or follow the guidelines from your breeder.
13. First Vet Visit/Vaccination Package
The initial vet visit is super important to budget and is also one of the harder things to budget. Our vet offered a "New Puppy Package" which included vaccinations, initial check-up, and a discount on spay/neuter later in the year. I believe all-in I paid about $450-500 for the Puppy Package and Mara's spay.
I reached out to our vet for a copy of the packages from 2018 and they said they no longer offer the puppy packages and only perform the services a la carte.
Cost of Initial Vet Visit and Vaccination Schedule
1st Visit (10 weeks) - Physical exam with doctor, 1st Da2PP (3 week), 1st Bordetella (3 week), Fecal O&P w/Giardia, 1st Strongid dewormer (unless provided by breeder) , nail trim
2nd Visit (13 weeks) - Technician exam, 2nd Da2PP (3 week), 2nd Bordetella (Annual), 2nd Strongid dewormer
3rd Visit (16 weeks) - Physical exam with doctor, 3rd Da2PP (1 year), 1st Rabies (1 year), Fecal O&P w/Giardia
Back in 2018, those services were $397 a la carte.
Add approximately $50 for Microchipping and approximately $250 for Spay/Neuter and you're around $700 in vet visits for the first two months of your puppy at home. Insurance does not cover any of these costs.
This is a big expense on top of the puppy cost that most people don't talk about.
Total cost for budgeted items
Let's tally what we've got without insurance, food, and vet bills.
Crate - $41.99 Single-Door Midwest iCrate from Amazon
Puppy Pads - $22.99 Frisco Pads from Chewy
Poop Baggies - $19.29 Big Box from Amazon
Harness or Collar - $23.99 Knock-Off Ruffwear from Amazon
Name tag with contact info - $3.99 from Amazon
Leash with a carbine buckle - $10.99 VivaGlory from Amazon
High-quality puppy treats - $17.95 SmallBatch Turkey Jerky from Amazon
Grooming Tools - $21.99 Slicker, $14.99 Fur Rake, $13.99 Steel Comb from Amazon
Shampoo - $13.81 HyLyt from 1-800-PetMeds
Toys - $35 Toy Budget
Our total comes out to $240.97 without tax and freight. That's decent!
THE BEST WAY TO SAVE MONEY WHEN GETTING A NEW PUPPY IS TO ASK AROUND FOR HAND-ME-DOWNS. Create an Instagram for your dog, make some friends, and ask if they are willing to sell you a used crate or if they have any hand-me-down toys in good condition their dog didn't gravitate towards. Ask them if they have any leftover puppy pads from when their dog was little that they don't need anymore.
The doodle community is SO special in that we are all down to help each other. If you are in Southern CA, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can try to help put you in contact with some people that are looking to get rid of crates and other new puppy items!