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The Ultimate New Puppy Checklist: Top 20 Must-Haves for Your New Puppy

Congratulations! You finally got the email from your breeder that your pup is ready to be picked up and adopted into his or her new home!


But…


You weren’t planning on getting that email for at least another month and a half and now baby is coming home in a week and you have nothing ready!


What crate do I buy? Which is better: a collar or a harness? What kind of toys will be fun? Cue the stress.


Fear not my friends, I’ve got you.


While I’m sure you are willing to spend your entire life savings giving this perfect little fluff ball the best of everything, I have already depleted mine on my mini Goldendoodle, Mara, and am willing to share the yay’s and nay’s with you so that you can save those extra few bucks for some fun adventures once your pup has all his or her shots. Yes I know, generous me.


Without further adieu, the goodies!


I created a list of the must-haves for you. Some of the items are pretty generic (potty pads) so I won’t go into much detail about why I chose the ones I did, but I will share my two-cents about most of the items on the list if you want to continue reading below.

  1. Puppy Pads (Training Potty Pads)

  2. Poop Baggy Holder and Poop Baggies (Organic Poop Bags)(Economical Poop Bags)

  3. Puppy Wipes (Water Wipes 3-Pack)

  4. Bed (Swirl Ombre Bed) Make sure to get the right size!

  5. Puppy Gate/Playpen (MidWest Exercise Pen)

  6. Name tag with contact info (Etsy is the BEST!)

  7. Leash with a carbine buckle (Vivaglory Leash with Traffic Handle)

  8. Food and water bowls (keep reading on this one)

  9. High-quality puppy food (Ask your vet or breeder - all dogs are so different!)

  10. High-quality puppy treats (BarkBites, Small Batch Turkey Jerky)

  11. Snuggle Puppy or Ikea Little Golden Retriever (Every dog I know loves this Ikea pup)

  12. Toys

  13. Shampoo, Conditioner, and Detangler (Cowboy Magic)

  14. Pet Insurance

  15. First Puppy Appointment with a Veterinarian


CRATE

DISCLAIMER: This is going to be a hypocritical post because I bought the crate that our breeder recommended and that I am going to recommend to you and never actually used it correctly.


By correctly, I mean I never used it as a training tool and never closed the door with Mara inside. I simply used it as a place she could go if she wanted.


Ok, so why should I buy one then?


Well since you asked, let me put it this way… unless you are planning on being eternally single or think your pup sleeping in your bed with you and your significant other for the entirety of his or her life is adorable, buy the dang crate and keep reading…


Crate training helps your little one with potty training by encouraging him or her to wait for extended periods of time and until released from the crate (dogs will naturally try NOT to potty in their sleeping area); establishing healthy and uninterrupted sleep patterns (I kick Mara all night, poor soul); and developing 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. There are different views on where to put the crate, but I would try to fit it in an area where your dog will still feel involved in daily life. For example, if I put Mara’s crate in the corner of my bedroom, she may feel safe sleeping there when we are in the room, but she will naturally want to be in the living room when we are watching tv or cooking in the kitchen, which (in my opinion) kind of defeats the purpose of the crate.


Dog crate with two doors
MidWest 30" Two-Door Dog Crate

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).


It 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 also 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.


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.


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. Although I didn’t use the crate in the way it was intended (with the door closed and as a training tool), Mara slept in her crate with the door open in a gated area for the first 6 months we had her. Up until this last time I went to visit my parents, she also slept in it at their house as well.


BED

Beds are tricky because most dogs just like sleeping on the floor. I think that we assume our pups will want a bougie memory foam bed because that is what we would want, but we need to remember that dogs are used to sleeping on top of each other and on hard surfaces in the wild. Also, some puppies are shredders, chewers, and demolishers, so keep that in mind when gravitating toward uber-fluffy plush beds.


I bought the Midwest Quiet Time Ombre Swirl Dog and Cat Bed because it would fit perfectly in her crate and looked very soft and cozy. I have since bought three more for my other two dogs and for various areas of the house. For the first 6 months, she slept happily on this bed during the day when I was at work and at night when the weather was a little cooler. I was extremely lucky that Mara never tried to chew any of her bedding; however, I have many friends that were not so lucky. In my opinion, it is economical enough to give it a try.


Adorable white lab laying on dog bed
MidWest Quiet Time Ombre Swirl Dog Bed

As Mara got older and I trusted that she wouldn’t rip apart a new bed, I decided to upgrade to the coveted (and very expensive) Casper Dog Bed made from memory foam. This bed boasts a suede-esque removeable cover that is scratch-resistant and completely washable. Two weeks into having this bed, Mara threw up all over it… you bet your butt I was thrilled that this multi-hundred dollar dog bed could be washed to look brand new – I mean, no crinkles, no wrinkles, no shrinkage… brand spankin’ new. It is also a very attractive and more classic-looking bed that comes in three muted colors and goes well with most furniture. This bed, however, is SO unnecessary and I wouldn't buy it again.


This was a purely human-motivated purchase. I always feel so guilty that she spends so much time sleeping during the day that I felt it was necessary to show her that her comfort is my #1 priority (yes, I know… ridiculous).



Gray, suede dog bed from Casper.com
Casper Dog Bed, Casper.com

PUPPY GATE/PLAYPEN

I’m not going to get into this one too much.


I purchased the Midwest Exercise Pen with Step-Thru Door because it can double as an indoor/outdoor freestanding gate. I wasn't overly worried about buying one that looked nice because I was more concerned about the functionality, stability, and durability.


A goldendoodle sits behind a dog gate with a glass of wine

Since I had Mara gated in the kitchen, I needed a long gate that would reach across the space, while still allowing enough room to be re-inforced around a corner with a barstool or a chair. This 16 ft.-wide gate was perfect for what I needed. I have since purchased another one to gate off additional sections of the house.


To date, I have used it as both a freestanding playpen and a gate.


COLLARS AND HARNESSES

I am not a fan of collars. Period.


Now… that’s not to say I didn’t have a custom rolled-leather collar handmade overseas before Mara was even born, but that was before I had a dog and really started using collars (i.e. taking IG photos in the house vs. going for a hike outside).


Since we have been active on IG, I have seen dozens of horror stories about dogs strangling themselves because their collars have gotten hooked on something while playing or being active. Of course there are exceptions to the rule (some people use certain types of collars for training), but for daily use, they are a big N-O from me.


Enter, the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. I have recommended this 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 will pull the body to the right or left, naturally disrupting the walk pattern. It teaches them that when the leash is loose, 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, again, you’re welcome.


Also, CHECK THE RUFFWEAR SIZING CHART. Mara wears an XXS and XS in Ruffwear products.


LEASH

This post may actually save your dog’s life – I’m not being sarcastic.


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 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 eff this ish 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. 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.


FOOD AND WATER BOWLS

In all reality, a bowl is a bowl, but there are some pros and cons to each of them.


PROS TO STAINLESS STEEL

Stainless steel bowls are great because they are indestructible. Puppies are clumsy as heck and manage to find ways to step in their bowls or accidentally clip the side of them and send them flying into space when they are excitedly jumping or playing.



If you are feeding raw, the stainless steel will stay extremely cold which helps to keep harmful bacteria from developing if your pup doesn’t eat the food right away.


CONS TO STAINLESS STEEL

Stainless steel bowls are not the best if you will be cooking your dogs food and will be serving it warm. When Mara was a puppy, she had a lot of tummy issues which meant chicken, rice, eggs, etc. If I put anything hot in the bowl, it would take an excruciatingly long time for it to cool. When a puppy is hungry, seconds matter.


Also, I am a firm believer that stainless steel harbors smells even though most people would put “doesn’t hold odors” in the PRO list. My opinion!


PROS TO CERAMIC

They can be very cute. You can put them in the microwave. It doesn’t take a million years for your dogs food to cool.



CONS TO CERAMIC

They are not indestructible. Mara accidentally clipped the corner of her ceramic water dish at my mom’s house and sent sharp ceramic pieces everywhere!


SNUGGLE PUPPY/IKEA GOLDEN RETRIEVER DOG

The full name of this toy is the Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Dog Toy, but everyone just knows it as the Snuggle Puppy. This toy has THOUSANDS of positive reviews online and mine is one of them. I purchased this toy for Mara’s first night home because I was terrified that she would be up all night crying and would feel alone without her mama and siblings close by. In an effort to comfort puppies in their new homes, the Snuggle Puppy comes with a heartbeat simulator and a heat pack to mimic the warmth and natural sounds of the mom and siblings… I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy

The small heartbeat simulator is placed in an opening on its tummy and is secured inside by very tough Velcro. I did not use the heat pack because I knew that I was going to have Mara sleep with this puppy and would not be watching her with the toy. I didn’t want her to accidentally puncture the heat pouch or anything along those lines. Safety first!


Mara was up twice the first night to potty, but lulled herself back to sleep by snuggling with this puppy. She slept with “puppy” until (I’m not kidding) she was almost 7 months old. This Snuggle Puppy was a gamechanger and no one will ever change my mind about that.


When Mara was about a year and a half, one of my girlfriends gave us the little Golden Retriever from Ikea. Oh my word - Mara's favorite toy of all time. "Puppy" (replaced Snuggle Pup) has been replaced twice because he is truly the best toy on the planet. I will be purchasing another since my Lab has destroyed #2.

Golden retriever plush toy
Ikea Gosig Dog

TOYS

Where to get started with toys. Each dog is so different that you really need to buy a toy from each toy family (ropes, bones, plushies, etc.).


I assumed that Mara would be a chewer and would destroy all toys and furniture in sight. FAIL. She is not. She loves plushies with squeakers and balls…



With that being said, I just gave away almost all of the toys I bought to my coworkers and wasted so much money in the beginning on things she didn’t like. Don’t be an extra dog mom and buy everything in sight. Buy one toy in each category and see which one your pup gravitates towards… then you can go crazy.


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 Pet Plan and I have had a great experience working with them. Mara had many stomach issues as a baby - insurance was a lifesaver.


Most insurance policies do not include spay/neuter or any kind of preventative care, so be mindful of these things when shopping around. A few popular insurance companies are:

  • Healthy Paws

  • Pet Plan

  • ASPCA

  • Trupanion

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 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 an M&M one of your kids left in the back seat.


CONCLUSION

I hope this list and these tips help you prepare for your new babe! Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know your left foot from your right during this time. It will all get better! You will learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Luckily, Amazon Prime and Chewy.com both have exceptionally fast shipping.


On a budget? Check out our "Ultimate New Puppy Checklist: 13 Must-Haves Under $250" post for some alternative options and additional information!


Happy prepping!


XO Tiffany




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