WHAT TO BUY AND WHY, AND HOW TO BEST USE AND SET UP THIS EQUIPMENT
So, you have visited your puppy on a couple of occasions now and introduced them slowly to you, their new doting owner, and perhaps some other smells. Now you need to prepare for their arrival by purchasing items that will allow you to fulfill their needs, keep them safe, and help you to work on some basic training.
But wait, there is so much to choose from and so many things to consider! Don’t worry, I have it covered. In this guide you will find my top essentials, why these should feature on your shopping list, and how they can best be used to give you and your new arrival the best and most stress-free transition possible to your new lives together.
As a general set of basics, I would advise purchasing the following items. Below you will also find a description of each and why I think these are necessary purchases:
- Travel carry case or crate
- Lead and lightweight training line
- Food bowl
- Water bowl
- Toileting material (paper or puppy pads)
- Puppy crate
- Puppy pen
- Puppy explore toys
- Puppy food dispensing toys
- ‘Complete’ puppy food
- Training treats
Let’s now look at the benefits and use of each of these:
TRAVEL CARRY CRATE OR CASE
This safety piece of equipment should ideally be purchased prior to your puppy’s arrival, with your puppy having been introduced to this prior to coming home whilst they are still with the breeder. This is an essential piece of kit for any journey you have to make, from going to the vets to perhaps even visiting relatives. For more information on this and how to introduce your puppy positively to travelling in a crate, please see my last blog post: ‘PREPARING YOUR PUPPY FOR COMING HOME WITH YOU’.
SETTING UP YOUR PUPPY CRATE, BEDDING AND TOILETING MATERIAL
It is important to remember that, just like your carry crate or case, using a crate at home keeps your puppy safe when you need to go out (or even shower!) and can’t watch their every mischievous move! A crate can also help to teach them to settle and rest, just like using a cot or crib for a baby and, additionally, a crate can also help with your toilet training (look out for the next blog post on this!). A crate should always be a positive place for your puppy and you should avoid placing them in it because you feel they have been ‘naughty’. Your puppy will not understand this and this is not its purpose.
Before your puppy’s arrival, set your crate up in a suitable room in your home. We placed Bertha’s crate in our kitchen as this is where our other dogs mostly reside and also where we spend a lot of our day. The room is also not too hot and the position of her crate is out of direct sunlight. I would suggest purchasing a crate that is large enough to house your puppy’s bedding plus allows for a small toileting area in the early weeks should they need it. Place your chosen bedding at the back of the crate and your toileting material at the front of the crate.
For bedding, I would recommend a ‘vet bed’ style of bedding, which can be purchased from most pet shops and also online. This style of bedding is relatively cheap, comfortable, and has the ability to draw moisture away from the top of the bedding should your puppy urinate on it, keeping them dry. It is also washable. Additionally, there is a possibility that your puppy may chew their bedding at this age, so you may be wasting your hard-earned pennies purchasing a fancy bed! Save this for later on, when your pup has matured a little, and you are confident it is going to last.
For toileting material, I would recommend using the same as the breeder (if they have been doing this). For example, if the breeder is using puppy pads, use puppy pads. Bertha was used to urinating and defecating on newspaper, so this is what we placed at the front of her crate to encourage her not to toilet on her bedding material (which she didn’t!). Using such material will also encourage your puppy when they come home to understand that your entire house is not for toileting in and will help them to start to make the distinction between where they should and shouldn’t be going to the toilet.
SET UP YOUR PUPPY PEN
In addition to your crate, I would also recommend purchasing a puppy pen for use outside. This can be used as both a safe place to play should you need to contain them in a certain area (never unattended), as well as another useful toileting tool. For Bertha, we have set the pen up in the garden to primarily assist with her toilet training. The principle behind this is that when we bring her out of her crate, for example when she has woken up from a snooze, she is taken straight to the pen to toilet. The same principle is useful to apply every time your puppy has eaten a meal or undertaken exercise. Waking up, after eating and after exercising are key times that your puppy is likely to need to go to the toilet. By taking your puppy to the same area each time you start to help them to understand where they should and shouldn’t be going to the toilet, encouraging them to be clean in the house. Again, look out for the next blog post which will discuss toilet training in more detail!
CHOOSING A FOOD BOWL & WATER BOWL
This is quite self-explanatory but consider something that is sturdy and not easily knocked over. Food and water bowls should also be easily cleanable. We personally love the Beco food bowls as they are environmentally friendly and made from plant-based materials that are fully biodegradable. We picked Bertha’s up from around £6, which we think is a steal! For your puppy’s water bowl, consider that they’ll need a constant supply of water when both in their crate and also when out and about in the home. Again, to avoid spillage, pick something that is suitably sturdy and suitable for your set up and individual home. There are a range on offer, from ceramic bowls to ones that clip on the side of a crate, making it harder to knock over and spill. For Bertha, she shares our other dogs’ ceramic water bowl in the kitchen and also has her own private bowl in her crate that clips onto the side, off the floor. Make your choices practical for your set up.
CHOOSING A COLLAR AND LEAD
If you are getting your puppy at 8 weeks of age, it is unlikely you will be needing these items much initially but it is good to get them ready. For the early days I would avoid using a collar constantly due to the risk of it getting caught or ‘hooked’ on something whilst your puppy is exploring and playing, which can lead to injury. You will, however, want to start to place a collar and lead on your dog for trips outside of the home that they need to make in the early weeks, for example when going to vets for their vaccinations. Having a lead and collar ready will allow you to start to introduce this positively to your puppy so that they aren’t shocked by it the first time (imagine how you’d feel if someone put something around your neck and suddenly tried to lead you around by it!). When choosing a lead, consider your dog and whether a harness might be a better, more comfortable option for their physiology and size over a standard clip on or slip on lead. I would recommend purchasing your puppy a light weight lead initially so as not to unsettle them and to allow them to get used to the feel of wearing a lead and collar. I would also recommend that you introduce the lead within the home environment to start with where they’re familiar. You should do the same with your long line, which can be a useful tool on your initial explore sessions outside of the home.
CHOOSE AND PURCHASE YOUR PUPPY EXPLORE TOYS
Your puppy, when they come home, will be similar in their life stage to a toddler. They will most likely want to mouth and chew different textures as they explore and teeth, and they will want to play. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but choose toys that offer a variety of textures and games for you to play with them and for them to play on their own. Small balls, squeaky toys and puppy appropriate soft toys are ideal for most breeds. You can also get toys that can go in the freezer to help sooth teething mouths. Remember to ensure that the toys you choose are safe for their age and are not likely to break into small pieces that can be swallowed if chewed by their often razor-sharp teeth. It is also ideal to have a box or basket that these can go into when your puppy is not using them. Having a toy box will also allow you to ‘bring toys out’ and rotate the toys each day so that they keep the puppy’s interest. Going back to my statement above, I will again stress that you do not need to spend a fortune. Your puppy will most likely enjoy playing with a cardboard box as much as they will a £10 teddy. Just make sure that any items you provide are safe and suitable for your puppy. For those who live in Hertfordshire and not too far from Bishop’s Stortford, Fin and Fur are most definitely worth a visit
CHOOSE AND PURCHASE A PUPPY FOOD DISPENSING TOY
You will want to teach your puppy early on that being left for short periods of time is not a stressful experience, and a food dispensing toy can assist with this. Get ready to set short sessions up by purchasing a small food dispensing toy that you can fill with tasty treats. Buy something small and ‘easy’ for your puppy to achieve to begin with to encourage them to have a go. As your puppy gets more confident and able at getting to the food you can then look to increase the challenge by either transitioning to a ‘harder’, more robust food dispensing toy or by making it harder to get to the food through the way you have ‘stuffed’ and placed food in the food dispensing toy. These can be purchased from a range of pet stores. Food dispensing toys can also be a source of great entertainment for your puppy when they are playing, and some will love chasing them around the floor to try and get to the treats. The more you have up your sleeve to keep your puppy occupied, the less chance there is of them getting into mischief you’d rather them not!
SELECT A GOOD QUALITY ‘COMPLETE’ PUPPY FOOD
You’ll want to start off by asking the breeder what food they are feeding the puppies. Ideally, your puppy will be sent home with some of this food. You may choose to continue feeding the same food, or you may wish to swap to a different brand. Whichever option you choose, ensure that the food you feed is a ‘complete’ food and suitable for their nutritional needs as they grow and develop. Remember, like most things in life, you pay for what you get. This doesn’t mean investing in the most expensive food you can find, but do your research and choose one that is derived from natural ingredients, doesn’t have lots of fillers (including water!) and offers your puppy everything they need nutritionally to grow and develop. If you are wanting to change your puppy’s food to a different brand to that which they have been previously fed on, it is useful to do this over a period of at least a week, if not two, to avoid upsetting their tummy. I personally love Barking Heads Puppy Days kibble, which is packed full of goodness, small in size for small mouths, and can be mixed with a little warm water to make it softer if needed. It is also the perfect size to initially put in food dispensing toys and start to introduce some training with!
SELECT GOOD QUALITY TRAINING TREATS
These are important to not only your obedience training but also for helping your puppy to learn about the often-confusing world that we live in. Treats, when given at the correct time, can help your puppy to make positive associations with the world that we live in, helping them to learn to be confident and happy. As a result, pick a treat that is ‘high in value’ for your puppy. By this I mean one that is particularly smelly and tasty. Biscuit based treats can work well but your puppy is more likely to value something with a high meat content such as Barking Heads Meaty Treats. Bertha absolutely loves these and they make training and socialisation a very positive and rewarding experience for us both. Remember, whichever treats you choose, keep these treats solely as a special reward for when you are training your puppy or exposing him or her to new experiences.
PREPARATION, PREPATION, PREPARATION!
I hope the above is of use to anyone thinking about or in the process of bringing a puppy home. Although there is a lot of information above, take your time to digest it fully and plan for your arrival carefully, considering what both your puppy and you need.