You’re getting a dog! Yeayyy! 🐶🎉🎉
I am so, so excited for you. I bet that this is something that you've been waiting for a long time.
You must have said things like this to yourself :
“I’ll get a dog when I move out into my own apartment.” “I’ll get a dog when I have more flexibility at work.” “I’ll get a dog when I can afford them."
And the list goes on and on. (All valid reasons to wait, by the way.)
Whatever the reason, you weren’t ready before and now you are. So let’s just take a moment to acknowledge this milestone and whole new experience in your life. 👏👏👏
It’s going to be a ton of work, but you won’t regret it.
After reading this post, you'll have a thorough understanding of what you need to do, BEFORE you get your new puppy and you'll have a simple game plan going into your dog ownership first days. Skip back if you want to, just make sure you read it all before picking up your puppy!
Okay, then, how are you getting ready for a new puppy?
STEP ONE: MENTALLY PREPARE
Based on my personal experience and the experience of helping friends with their new puppies, here are the key mindset points you need to know before you bring your puppy home.
1. POTTY TRAINING: IT’S ANNOYING, AND IT’LL DRY YOUR PATIENCE
Potty training will be your first task as a new dog parent and it sucks. Just know that.
In the beginning, your puppy won’t be able to hold it longer than an hour or two. He’ll wake up you up, whining, in the middle of the night and then he’ll wake you up again as the sun is rising. He’ll make mistakes and go in the house, even when you think he should know better. You’ll feel like he’s doing it to spite you. (He’s not.)
My advice? Make a potty training plan now and just know that the first few weeks are going to be hard. If you’re mentally prepared for the challenge, you will be way less likely to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
2. SLEEPLESS NIGHT
Losing sleep goes together with potty training. If you absolutely need your 8 hours, plan to go to bed a little earlier than you normally do for the first two week.
That way you’re not freaking out that you missed sleep when you have to get up in the middle of the night to let your dog out.
3. CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE
If possible, try to bring your puppy home during a time when things are relatively quiet in your social life and work life. You want to be able to be home as much as possible without worrying about a big project at work, mandatory social events, or hosting out-of-town friends.
If you work a 9-5 job, the best time to get a puppy is right before a long weekend so you can maximize the time you have at home with your new puppy.
If you can swing it, consider taking a few days of unpaid time off. I know this sounds crazy, but your puppy’s first week will probably be more demanding than you realize and the more time you have to encourage and reward positive behavior, the better.
4. PUPPY BLUES: YOU MIGHT REGRET GETTING A PUPPY
It seems impossible now... but at some point you might have second thoughts about getting a dog. It will cross your mind that you shouldn’t have adopted a puppy after all and can you just give him back to the shelter or the breeder?
A lot of people talked about their first month as a dog owner feel overwhelmed at the responsibilities and the sudden loss of freedom. It’s a time of transition! And transitions are hard.
By the way, this is so common that there’s a name for it: the puppy blues.
The puppy blues, aka puppy depression, can come up at any time. When your puppy bites you and then runs away and then poops in your favorite pair of shoes… it might hit you. It might feel like just a flash of regret or you may start to full on resent your puppy.
It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry. But do try to shift your mindset into something more positive and healthy. And know this: it will pass.
5. THIS SHOULD BE YOUR MINDSET: YOUR PUPPY DOESN’T KNOW THE RULES YET
You are about to bring a puppy into your human world and he’s going to have zero idea what you want from him. He doesn’t know that outside is where he’s supposed to go potty or that he’s allowed to chew on that one stuffed animal you bought for him, but not the balled up sock on your bedroom floor.
He’s not going to know that “sit” means “put your butt on the floor” or why you would ever want him to do that. He's also not going to know that the vacuum cleaner isn't a terrible monster that's out to get him.
You have to show him exactly what you want him to do (show him, not tell him, because he’s not going to speak your language.) You have to show him that the human world is a safe, happy place. Be thorough, be patient, and have a sense of humor about it.
If you remember this simple mindset you’re well on your way to puppy bliss.
6. IT WILL GET EASIER
Anything worth doing is going to be difficult. But anything you do for awhile is bound to get easier, right?
You will get the hang of being a dog parents sooner than you know it. And just as you get the hang of it, your pup will get used to you too!
Raising and training a puppy is difficult, but having a happy, loyal, well-behaved dog makes it all worth it. It really is as wonderful as you’ve been imagining!
So before you even bring your new puppy home, it's good to keep this all in mind. Be prepared to be overwhelmed, get in the right frame of mind, and know that the puppy stage doesn't actually last all that long! Enjoy it while it lasts!
STEP TWO: GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES
Okay, now that you are mentally prepared to bring home your new puppy, let’s get down to the basic of what supplies you actually need for a new pup.
To make it easier, I created a downloadable (or printable) pdf with all of the info that you need!
POTTY TRAINING SUPPLIES
1. A CRATE (OR TWO)
This is an essential potty training tool. You can get the plastic kennel style, the wire style, or something a little more modern if you have a budget to work with.
I’d recommend getting two crates - one to keep right next to your bed in your room and one to keep in your living room.
THE CRATE NEXT TO YOUR BED
Your puppy will sleep in a crate next to your bed for the first month or so while he’s potty training! Trust me, it’ll make it go so much faster. Even if you're dreaming of having your dog sleep in bed with you, I highly recommend you wait until after he is completely potty trained.
This will also help you establish some boundaries and help your pup grow some early independence.
THE CRATE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM
Your puppy will hang in his living room crate for stretches during the day. He won't live in this crate - he'll have freedom to explore whenever you are watching him, but you'll soon see that it's an invaluable tool for early potty training.
If you’re fine moving the crate from your living room to your bedroom every day, you can also just get one.
2. SOFT AND SNUGGLY BEDDING FOR BOTH CRATES:
You want to make your puppy's crate(s) completely comfortable and irresistible. Pick up a crate pad or a bed that fits in the crate or layer it with soft and snuggly blankets.
3. AN EXERCISE PEN OR PUPPY GATE:
When you first get your puppy, you’ll restrict where he can go in the house without supervision. If you let him roam around freely, he’s definitely going to chew something or pee on something that you don’t want him to.
This isn’t just annoying - that freedom actually encourages bad behavior. Say, for example, your puppy gnaws on the leg of your table while you aren’t watching. He’s going to a) love life, b) decide that sometimes he’s allowed to chew on it (because no one stopped him) and continue to do it (because it’s fun).
The point of an exercise pen or puppy gate is to never give your puppy the chance to be naughty. When they’re trained, they can have the run of the house. While they are little chewing and peeing machines, not so much.
So, I’d say that an exercise pen is a must if you’ll be gone during the day for hours at a time. If you have a convenient spot that is set off but easily accessible - like a kitchen - where he can stay, you can purchase a dog gate instead of a pen to block the area off.
4. DOG STAIN & ODOR REMOVER:
Your puppy is going to have some accidents in your house. I know, it sucks, but that’s just the reality. This cleaner has a special enzyme that gets rid of the urine smell so he’s not tempted to go in the same place over and over again.
There's lot of brand available out there, but look for the anti-smell enzyme.
5. PLASTIC DOG WASTE BAGS:
You'll need these throughout your dog's life, so it's safe to buy these in bulk to start. Check out the more eco-friendly biodegradable and compostable options.
6. DOG POTTY BELLS (OPTIONAL):
If you want to teach your puppy to ring a bell to go outside to potty, start from his very first day and buy them before you bring your puppy home.
1. FOOD AND WATER BOWLS:
You may want to start with puppy-sized bowls and buy bigger ones down the road.
2. A KONG OR PUZZLE TOY:
Every meal is an opportunity to help your puppy get some energy out. Kongs and puzzle toys make your puppy work for his food and burn some mental energy - great! For the first few months, I recommend feeding your puppy with one of these rather than just putting food in a bowl.
3. HIGH-QUALITY PUPPY FOOD:
Look for food that is specifically made for puppies and that has an animal protein listed as one of the top ingredients.
Pick a good one, but don't start with a huge bag! If you have a picky puppy, you may have to try a few different types of food before you land on one that he will eat.
Go ahead and buy a big bag of bully sticks. You can also pick up an elk antler, or natural cow hooves. You’ll use these to re-direct puppy bites and work on resource guarding training.
Do not get rawhide chews. There's a debate on whether they are safe for puppies or not, but there are so many other options out there, that you might as well play it safe.
1. TRAINING TREATS:
Training starts the day you bring your puppy home, so stock up on treats to be prepared! You’ll want small, moist treats that are made specifically for training.
I like Ziggy Bar, but pick whatever brand looks good to you. Just buy one bag before you actually get your puppy, because you will probably have to adjust the style and flavor of treats before you find one that your pup loves.
2. A CLICKER (OPTIONAL):
Clickers are used for clicker training, which is a method of marking and rewarding good behavior. Clickers are cheap and readily available online, so I'd recommend you pick one up and try it to see if you like it!
They can make training go faster, especially as you get into more advanced behaviors.
1. A SIMPLE, SOFT PUPPY HARNESS
Depending on your puppy's breed, he will probably outgrow this in a month or two anyway, so no need to go nuts here. Before your puppy has his shots, you'll mostly use this to take him out to his potty spot.
2. FLAT COLLAR
You want your puppy to get used to wearing a collar early. You will likely have to get a bigger size as he grows, so a basic collar is fine to start.
3. 4-FOOT LEASH:
You won’t be taking your puppy for walks outside in the first month or so (until he has all of his shots), but a harness and leash are useful for taking your puppy directly to his outdoor potty spot.
4. PLENTY OF FUN TOYS!
You want to wear your puppy out with as much play as possible! Stuffed toys that squeak are always fun; flirt poles are great for getting your little guy to run back and forth; and balls are a must-have too!
STEP THREE: GET YOUR HOUSE READY
Okay great, you got your gear. Nice work! Now let's take a quick look around your house and see what needs to be done.
1. DE-CLUTTER YOUR HOUSE
All of those random things lying around your floor - piles of magazines, the bag of cloth shopping bags? Your puppy is going to chew them up. At the very least he’s going to put them in his mouth and decide how it feels.
The day or weekend before you bring your puppy home, take an hour or two and look at your house through a puppy’s eyes. What is eye level and looks fun to chew? Pick it up and move it, throw it in your closet, or put it in a designated “no puppy” room. Just get it off the floor for now.