So you’re thinking of getting a new dog. Congratulations! You’ve done your research and decided what works best for you: adult or puppy? Rescue or breeder? Big, small, or in between? It’s an exciting time. And now? It’s time to go shopping.
There are entire stores dedicated just to pet stuff. Massive websites. You could really go all-out if you wanted to. But do you really need to? There are things you need for your pet, things that are good to have, and some that are purely extra. Here are some tips and tricks for getting a new dog or puppy.
Need: Nutritious food appropriate for your dog
For the first couple days, it’s best to feed your new dog whatever they were eating before you got them. Your dog’s breeder, shelter, foster, or the sketchy stranger you found advertising puppies on NextDoor should be able to tell you what they’ve been eating and may even provide you with a small bag of food. A sudden change in diet can be hard on a dog’s system and can cause diarrhea, so use that food to gradually switch to whatever you plan to feed them.
From there, feed them what you like! Keep in mind that their food should be appropriate for age. Puppy food has more fat and is formulated for a growing body and may be too rich for a senior. Adult food may not have everything puppies need to be healthy.
When it comes to brand, it’s down to your choice and your individual pet. We all have a friend who has an iron stomach and can eat a steady diet of cheeseburgers and pixie sticks and never get fat or suffer any ill effects… and another who is all, “Oh, are there any spices in this? Spices will give me dandruff!” any time they eat literally anything. Maybe one of those is you. Dogs are the same- some can eat anything you put in front of them and be absolutely fine and others may be sensitive to certain ingredients, dyes, or lower-quality foods. If you don’t know what brand to choose, talk to your veterinarian. For most dogs, a middle-range grocery store brand such as Purina or Iams is a good place to start and you can make adjustments based on your own dog’s needs and your budget.
Need: Food and water bowls
Technically, you can use kitchen bowls or Tupperware or all kinds of things in a pinch. But a good set of bowls is a must. Start with a basic pair of stainless steel bowls. They’re inexpensive, lightweight, easy to clean, and difficult to chew up. From there, you can switch things up to match your pet’s needs and preferences. Some pets like having an elevated feeder. Some may be prone to knocking their bowls over and may need a heavier ceramic bowl.
Good to have: A crate
A good crate can be a wonderful training tool, especially if you’re getting a puppy! A crate can help with housebreaking, keep your pet safe and contained when you’re not at home, and provide your pet with a safe space to retreat when they’re feeling overwhelmed. It can be a safe place to put your dog if, for example, you have someone coming over to do repairs on your home. For some tips on crate training, check out the AKC website.
A crate is also a must if you’re adopting a dog who is used to having a crate or a shy dog who needs a quiet spot of their own. It may be that you get to a point where you don’t use the crate at all and can put it away, but when your pup is brand new, it’s worth the investment. If you’re put off by the price tag, look for a used one- ask on NextDoor, check Facebook Marketplace, or look at thrift stores. Crates are the kind of thing people don’t want to store after they’re done using them, so you can usually find them cheap!
Need: A vet appointment
Even if your dog comes to you healthy and up-to-date on their shots and basic vetting, you’ll still want to get them in to see the vet soon after you get them. Most of the time, you’ll need to get them on heartworm and flea and tick preventative. There are a few options for longer-lasting preventatives, but the majority need to be given monthly.
Even if they’re set on preventatives for a few months, it’s a good idea to get them established with your veterinarian when your pet is healthy and new to you, especially if you’re a first-time pet parent or haven’t had a pet in a while. This will give your vet a chance to check and see if there’s anything your dog’s previous owners may have missed and will give you a chance to ask some of those basic questions that may be individual to your pet. It will also give you a chance to scope out your vet and their staff. It’s possible you just won’t vibe with the first vet you visit and that’s okay. It’s important to be on the same page when it comes to your pet’s care.
Need: A well-fitting leash, collar, and ID tags
You might think this is one of those luxury things that can wait, but these three items could be life-or-death for your new pet. The first few days in a new home are a big adjustment for you, but they’re an even bigger one for your pet. They don’t know where they are. They don’t really know you. And you don’t know them. During that adjustment period, there’s an especially high risk of your new pet getting loose and getting lost. A leash can, in some instances, keep that from happening in the first place. A collar and ID tag can get them back home if they do get out.
Make sure any collars are well-fitting and sturdy. You should be able to fit two fingers under the collar, but no more. A loose collar can slide over your dog’s head, which defeats the purpose. Collars should be well-made. Clasps and slides that move too freely can break or cause the collar to loosen with the dog’s movement. For extra security, consider a martingale or “no-slip” collar, which tightens slightly when the dog pulls.
Need: Appropriate grooming supplies
What this actually means will vary based on your dog and their coat. For short-haired dogs, a basic brush and pair of nail clippers should do the trick. If you’ve opted for something curly, hairy, fluffy, double-coated, with dreads, or otherwise more intense… well, you’ll need more intense grooming tools. Your vet or groomer can direct you to the right kinds of brushes for your dog’s coat. Even if they go to the groomer regularly, brushing at home is a part of good coat care and regular maintenance and having those tools on hand is a must.
The way to most dogs’ hearts is through their stomachs. When your pet is brand-new, some delicious cookies can teach them to associate you with good things and can speed up the bonding process considerably! It’s also important to remember that a dog new to your home, even if they’re adults with good house manners, will still need some training to understand some of the rules and routines specific to your home.
Good to have: A reasonable number of toys
This is another one that depends on the dog. Some dogs love toys and some ignore them. Some can be trusted with a whole collection of cuddly toys and some will disembowel them in record time and need tougher stuff to play with. Don’t blow your whole paycheck on toys before you bring your dog home. Choose a small variety- a squeaky toy, a ball, a chewy bone, a Kong-style toy, a rope- and watch how your dog reacts to them. Anything that they annihilate should be avoided or only used under close supervision. De-fluffing may seem like harmless fun, but it can result in a bowel obstruction if they swallow the fluff.
Remember that toys are not an adequate substitute for human play and interaction. It doesn’t matter if your dog has a million tennis balls. He still needs you to play fetch with him.
Extra: Everything else!
Sure, those Halloween costumes, car seats, overstuffed dog beds, monogrammed blankets, little rain boots, Barkbox subscriptions, and treat-dispensing robots are all really cool. And depending on your dog and your needs, they might be useful! But they’re definitely extras you can choose to buy later on. Do what’s right for you! These tips and tricks for getting a new dog will definitely make you a smart and attentive pet owner for anymore pets you get in the future.
Another essential? Someone you can trust to take care of your pup when you’re away. Luckily, we’ve got that covered. Whether you’re just away at work and need someone to take your new bestie for a walk or you’re out of town and need someone to stand in as their temporary pet parent, 4-Legged Kids has your back. Check out our services page for a brief run-down of all the things we offer!
Janie founded 4-Legged Kids, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1997 and provides education through her PetBizHIVE podcast and her PetBizMBA membership and courses. She is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator, Fear Free certified and a Certified Professional Pet Sitter. Learn more about the Founder, Janie Budnick.