You are now the proud caregiver of a new puppy! Over the next several weeks, months, and years you'll come to learn and experience so many wonderful things. But one of the keys to success is preparation. Make sure you have these puppy checklist items on hand before you’re distracted by a licking, happy ball of fur in the house.
Adapted from Puppy Checklist: Getting off to a Great Start written by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
Growing puppies need a dog food that is specially formulated for their developmental stage— the “puppy” life stage. Puppies need certain nutrients to grow strong bones and muscles, to feed their developing brains, and to build their immune systems without overdoing it on the calorie count. Optimal nutrient profiles are especially important for large breed puppies, which can develop painful bone conditions when they are allowed to eat foods with a high calcium to phosphorus ratio and thus grow too quickly. Look for large breed puppy foods for puppies which will be 55 pounds or more once fully grown as an adult.
Dog treats are the highlight of a puppy’s day. They can make dog training a snap and improve the human-puppy bond through a positive reinforcement program. However, because it’s easy to overdo, make sure dog treats are small enough to be a tiny bite of flavor … not a meal replacement. In fact, treats should not account for more than 10 percent of your puppy's daily calories.
Teething puppies have an intrinsic need to chew. If you don’t have an adequate supply of dog chew toys on hand, you can kiss your shoes, purses, and furniture goodbye. Inappropriate chewing is annoying, expensive, and possibly even dangerous, so set your puppy up for success with dog-appropriate chew toys.
Puppies should have a safe, comfortable, clean spot to sleep. Many owners find crate training an indispensable tool in the house training process, and this solves the problem of both house training and a designated slumber spot. A large dog crate with a soft cozy crate pad is often just what puppy needs for a secure place to lay his busy head.
Dog gates are an excellent way to block doorways to rooms you'd like to keep off-limits to your puppy. Some may even be configured as a personal play pen.
Puppies are messy, no two ways about it. They rip things up. They have "accidents" (hint: enzymatic cleaners are very helpful in these cases). They sometimes vomit on the rug. A good supply of cleaning supplies is indispensable. However, choose cleansers that are designated “pet safe” to ensure that even if Fido sneaks a lick, it won’t be a problem for him or for you.
Your puppy will certainly be in need of a bath at some point. While you don’t need a shampoo specific to puppies, you will need one specific to dogs, as their sensitive skin is easily irritated by the stripping cleansers in shampoos designated for people. Have a good brush on hand as well to get your puppy used to being groomed and to keep their puppy coat in tip top shape. Brushing helps keep the coat shiny and healthy by spreading the oils in their skin through the coat.
Dogs aren’t born knowing how to walk on a leash. Training them to get used to a dog leash (and collar) early is an essential socialization skill. For young dogs still learning manners, make sure your leash is short enough that they will be in your control and save the long leashes for when they are a bit older. If you have a small dog — under 20 pounds — you may also want a travel carrier.
Dog collars should be snug enough that your puppy dog can’t back out of them, but large enough for 2-3 fingers to slip comfortably underneath. Remember, a growing dog will need a new collar several times during the puppy stage as he or she gets bigger.
Finally, before you bring that new puppy home, make sure you have established a relationship with a veterinarian. Your new four-legged bundle of fur will require ongoing care and advice from a veterinarian. Additionally, don't be afraid to ask questions! A veterinarian can help you make decisions about several things, including vaccinations, neutering, and diet based on what is best for your new puppy!