What does a professional dog trainer buy when preparing for a new puppy? The answer might surprise you.
Shopping for a puppy is always exciting, but what do you really need? Many new dog owners are overwhelmed by the choices and myriad opinions of everyone they meet.
“Your dog needs a crate.”
“Don’t get a crate, it’s cruel. You want a pen.”
“Get a pen and put the crate INSIDE.”
“Get raised dog bowls. It’s better for their spine alignment.”
“Don’t get raised dog bowls! It causes Bloat.”
“You need stuffy toys.”
“Don’t get stuffy toys, it’ll teach the dog to chew children’s toys!”
Everyone has an opinion, don’t they? And everything is so expensive!
Well, I just picked up my new puppy this week. I’m a professional dog trainer with a decade of experience, certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, and I am a veterinary technician who graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Guelph and who worked as Director of Medical Services at a veterinary clinic.
Want to know what I bought?
The Essential Puppy Supply Checklist.
Wide water bowl that isn’t too high and isn’t easy to tip over.
I went with a cheap melamine bowl from Bosley’s.
Plastic mat to put under that water bowl.
Most puppies are sloppy drinkers and some actively paw the water out of their bowls. A mat with a rim will help catch some of that mess. When your puppy is older, a microfiber absorbent mat is your best bet, but a puppy would just eat that up and they aren’t cheap.
A rusted, broken, zap-strapped-together old crate
I got it for free on Facebook Marketplace. This crate is missing all of its bolts. The door is rusted with age. The plastic is chewed and scratched and cracked. It’s perfect.
Crates are completely essential both for your puppy’s safety and your sanity. Dogs don’t like to urinate or defecate where they sleep – even though they love urinating and defecating everywhere else. Plus the crate provides a safe place to put the puppy when you can’t keep an eye on them.
It isn’t cruel to put a puppy in a crate any more than it is cruel to put a baby in a playpen or crib. And it is vital for easy and painless potty training. Since housebreaking issues are one of the major reasons dogs are relinquished to shelters, please just get a crate.
But if you’re getting a large breed dog, like me, you have a problem – if I get a crate big enough to hold a full grown Bernese Mountain Dog, that will give the puppy so much room that she could sleep in one corner and pee in another.
This crate was free, clean, and is nice and snug for my 20 lb Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. When she gets too big for it (probably by next month!) I can size up.
Always check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for hand-me-down crates. Many people don’t bother with them once their dog is a couple of years old, potty trained, and past the point of chewing up their shoes. Then they list them online and depending on the condition of the crate will price them at $50-80 or even free.
Dollarama leashes, including long-lines.
An off-leash puppy is trouble. The best thing you can do for your stress levels, next to getting a crate, is to keep the puppy on a leash at all times. Leashed puppies can’t pee behind the couch or chew your shoe when you’re busy with the kids. You don’t want your dog to get into the habit of wandering around looking for trouble.
Why the dollar store? Well, puppies chew things. They are adorable bundles of predatory destruction. Don’t get anything expensive until your pup is at least six months old, preferably one or two years old. Expect to go through multiple leashes as they get shredded, urinated on, and dragged through goodness knows what.
A subscription to Bark Box.
No, this is not a product placement.
Bark Box has NOT paid us or offered us any kind of incentive to advertise their monthly subscription boxes. They’re just genuinely THAT good.
Bark Boxes come once a month and each one has its own adorable theme. Matching that theme will be a couple of high-quality toys that crinkle, squeak, and sometimes even have bonus toys hidden inside. I once got a stuffed Viking ship and when my boarders finally destroyed it I found a squeaky Viking ball inside!
Along with the toys are two bags of grain-free treats. Common ingredients include pork, chicken, beef, and fish. Last month they were alligator!
Finally, there are two chewy stick type treats. Sometimes they are dog pepperoni, sometimes a sort of bully stick.
As a dog trainer, I find this constant supply of treats and toys for $22 USD a month to be invaluable. For anyone with an active, destructive puppy, I think a Bark Box subscription – even just for three months during puppyhood – could be a life and wallet saver.
By the way, it also makes a GREAT gift for someone expecting a new puppy. You can even pick and choose the theme of the gift box!
Totally Optional Purchases
A food bowl.
That’s right. Food bowls are optional. Most dogs prefer to earn their food from your hand than to eat it for free from a bowl, especially breeds like Yorkies and Poodles.
I’m a big believer of puppies earning kibble from my hand by sitting, pottying outside, and dropping the socks they pick up. But I still feed them three small meals to keep bowel movements regular and blood sugar levels even.
But why put it in a bowl?
A scoopful of kibble dumped on the floor is just as good from a dog’s point of view.
If your puppy doesn’t eat the meal all at once, then feed less next time.
Feeding raw or homecooked? Then a tupperware container or a flat, washable placemat is probably just as easy as a bowl. Dogs find bowls difficult to eat out of, especially when their food is soft. The food gets squished into the corners and their nose bumps the bowl across the room when they try to lick it out.
By all means, get a food bowl if you want one. Just know that your dog doesn’t care about bowls at all and you can save your money.
A Snuggle Puppy
These nifty little inventions have electronic hearts that go thump-thump-thump. A nice comfort item for a puppy sleeping away from Mom and siblings for the first time. Bonus points if you can leave it with the mother for a few days before the puppy comes home so it smells like Mom too.
Can’t be bothered to order a stuffed dog on Amazon? The old standby of a water bottle and a ticking clock is never a bad idea, and many puppies do just fine with a person sleeping nearby.
I didn’t need to buy one of these because I have them scattered all over my house. Clickers are a dog trainer’s best friend. A clicker is a clear, precise, and distinct way to communicate to a dog that they have earned a treat. Clicking improves communication between me and the dog which means the puppy learns faster and I don’t get as frustrated.
But a simple “yes!” or “BAM!” works just as well as a click.
If you do get a clicker, get a cheap rectangle one. They click louder and last longer than the fancy new-fangled kinds they sell in stores these days.
Front Clip Harness/Seatbelt
If you have a small breed dog, seriously consider a harness with a front clip and webbing in the chest area.
Small breeds are very prone to collapsing trachea and pulling on a collar can wreck their airway. A front-clip harness ensures there is no pressure on your dog’s neck.
Kurgo makes a great harness which also doubles as a seatbelt – very important if you have the size of dog which can climb onto your lap when you are driving or fly through the window as a projectile during a crash.
Large breed dogs also benefit from front clip harnesses especially as they grow, because the front clip gives you some extra leverage against a strong dog.
large dogs should also either be buckled onto a seat or should learn to ride on the floor footwell of the car rather than on a seat.
It can also be expensive to replace harnesses as the dog grows so I’m not bothering until the puppy gets bigger! In the meantime, a crate or the floor of the car are good places for her to ride.
These things teach dogs to pull. Their handles, if dropped, have been known to terrify dogs into bolting away. Dog trainers hate them. Don’t get one.
Puppy Pee Pads
These things are totally useless. Training your puppy to urinate indoors – even if it’s on a special surface – is not a good idea for the long term if your ultimate goal is a housebroken dog. Plus, puppies love ripping up pee pads and eating the not-at-all-safe-to-eat absorbent chemicals inside.
From day 1, take puppy outside and plunk them down on the dirt to pee. Live in a condo? No problem. Get a big litter box and fill it with dirt or sand or even turf from the local plant nursery and put it on your balcony.
Can’t take puppy out regularly? Consider hiring a dog walker to come by while you’re at work, especially if you plan to live a life where you don’t always come home to messes that need to be cleaned up.
If you’re still Determined to let your puppy pee inside, get old towels from Value Village like God intended and wash them regularly.
Puppies destroy everything. They chew it, pee on it, vomit it up, eat it again, then poop it out.
Do not buy anything you are not willing to clean diarrhea off of or throw away until your dog has hit emotional maturity.
Ready, Set, Go!
So, have you got your old/second hand/dollar store dog equipment? Good! Then you are ready for your new puppy!