Parenting a new puppy without buying all the things?
December 14, 2017 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Mefites with puppy-raising experience, what’s the critical short-list of must-haves for parenting a new puppy? What can I skip buying as just consumerist clutter? What do I need on day 1 vs. can wait and see?

I grew up with dogs but am now going to be the Primary Responsible Adult. We’ll arrive home with the puppy late at night (it will be 9 weeks old), and though one of us can go to a pet store the next day, I’d rather arrange to have things we really need ahead of time.

Lots of internet lists on this topic seem to be catered to people who, well, LIKE to shop and are excited to be shopping for their new family member. We’re both rather frugal minimalists, and pets have enough costs separate from buying lots of things.

So, what do we really need?

Bonus question: links to house training techniques you found effective, other top tips and tricks!
posted by amaire to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Crate, soft bed. Harness, training leash. Kongs, nylabones/general chew toys, soft toys. Training treats, clicker. Food and water bowls. Cleaning supplies.

For good tips on early days training and care check out Kikopup on youtube. She has a whole playlist of videos for puppy owners.

(Congrats on your new family member!)
posted by mymbleth at 3:31 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'd go with a good bowl (ceramic or metal) for water and food. One or two chew toys will be important for a puppy to keep them away from your shoes. You can probably wait and see on a crate, but if you think you'll go that route, might as well start the routine right away. Get them to love that space.

Look into pet insurance and/or care plans. Many people who have it love it. I've never gotten a dog as a puppy, so I haven't looked into it myself.

Maybe find out what sort of food the puppy is eating currently, and get some of that to have on hand.
posted by hydra77 at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

A bed that is durable and will fit the dog when it grows up, a bowl for food and one for water. One toy for chewing.

It's weird but I don't really remember house training tricks. It seemed very smooth and simple to me. My current dog preferred to go outdoors for doing his thing right from the start, so the main task for me was to be attentive and react when he wanted to go. Maybe that depends on the conditions where the puppy came from?

On thing I regret with this dog: because I had decades of dog-training experience, I thought it would be OK to skip puppy-training class when it didn't fit well in my schedule. Wrong. I'll never do that again, and I've since talked with very experienced trainers who have all said puppy training is the most important training and they all go regardless of all their knowledge and experience. Find the nearest class and go there!
posted by mumimor at 3:35 PM on December 14, 2017

I'd ask the person you're getting him from what kind of puppy food he's been eating and get a bag of that so he won't get an upset tummy by eating different food.
posted by ilovewinter at 3:55 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: High-quality food. Talk to whomever is currently feeding the puppy and buy some of that. Anything else is a recipe for runny puppy poo.

A bed. A crate if you are planning to crate train.

Safe chew toys including at least one ball.

A collar, dog license, dog tag with your number, microchip.

Harness and dog lead (do not be one of those people who drags a puppy around by the neck.)

Poop bags.

If your puppy is coming from a litter and/or a dam, while it isn't essential, it would be a kindness to give the puppy a warm hot water bottle and blanket to cuddle with in the bed/crate.

As for dog training, we use tethering for umbilical cord training. But it is basically take the puppy out every hour or two hours. Take the puppy out immediately after eating, and every time it wakes up from a nap. Every time it goes, praise it lavishly and hand over a treat.

Do NOT scold the puppy for urinating or defecating in the house unless you catch them in the act, in which case you let loose with a very loud NO. You then take the pup outside immediately. House training failures are yours, not the dog's. Remember you will need to get up to toilet the dog overnight as well.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:11 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

For house training, tie a bell or something like it (we used a string of Mardi Gras beads with a big gaudy plastic medallion on it) on your doorknob. Every time you go out to potty, lead your pup to nose the bell, then go out. He'll connect the two and figure out that dinging the bell makes potty-time happen. You can hear a bell from elsewhere in the house so he can get your attention when he needs it.
posted by workerant at 4:22 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

A gate.

My favorite training tip is every time your dog starts to pee/poo in the correct area, PRAISE! "Good dog, go poop!". It is awesome to go outside and be able to make you dog go to the bathroom on command. Great for cold days, before long trips, etc.
posted by ReluctantViking at 4:34 PM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think you can wait on buying toys/treats to see what works for your dog. Our breeder gave us a couple toys to take home when we brought our puppy home, including a nice floating retrieving-type toy for tossing in water for the dog to fetch. Well, she can barely figure out what direction an object went once I've thrown it, so we lost that toy immediately down the creek. And it turns out she loves shredding cardboard boxes as much as pricey plush toys, so that's her freebie treat that we endlessly encourage :)
posted by Drosera at 5:18 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I’ve found that using a stand for my dog’s bowls makes a HUGE difference and he seems to eat and digest his food better that way.

Other things to remember: when s/he is a puppy, gently handle the ears and paws a LOT. This will make ear cleaning and nail trimming so much easier. I handle my dog’s ears and paws each day.
Some people may think it a little unorthodox, but I, and all of his human acquaintances, including his dogwalker, talk to him. Constantly. He seems to have picked up a lot on human speech and body language. I make time to talk to him and I tell him what we're going to do and what I need him to do; he’s very receptive and praise-driven, so he enjoys the interaction. It’s become much easier as he’s gotten older (almost 3!) for me to say “I need you to do x, now.” and he complies without fuss.
Also! Positive reinforcement! Winston has learned that when he behaves well, he’s rewarded. With praise, a trip to the park, swimming in the pool, a treat, whatever, as long as it’s a reward.
Lots of environmental stimulation as a puppy and meeting new dogs (after shots, of course), and new people. Winston receives many compliments on his good behavior. Which is great! Because that’s in public! Sometimes at home he’s a little terror.
Good luck and I’m so happy for your family!
posted by sara is disenchanted at 5:44 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Skip the bed on day 1. Puppies will chew it. Use old blankets or towels instead.

On day 1 you want a confinement thing (crate or baby gate or both), towels/blankets, chew toy, natures miracle, food/water dish, food, poop bag. All the rest can come on day 2 or later, including harness/collar and leash.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:46 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

chew things to play with
posted by patnok at 6:02 PM on December 14, 2017

Best answer: I used to freeze a washcloth for chewing when my pup was teething. It feels good on their gums, and can save other stuff from being destroyed (like eyeglasses and other expensive things.)
posted by chocolatetiara at 6:22 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A bowl for food a bowl for water. Can be old bowls you already own or people bowls, dishwasher safe is good as a clean bowl helps keep puppies healthy. Lead, collar, some place to sleep. old blanket or something easy to wash is fine when young, maybe getting a dog bed when older if you don't just let your dogs sleep on the couch and or bed. Don't skimp on dog food & get a good quality one. Cheap collar is fine if the dog is steal growing, but make sure the final one is a good solid reliable one and it will last the whole dogs life.

Stuff for cleaning up accidents. Natures miracle. Poop bags.

A couple of toys. Something they are allowed to chew, so when the puppy chews something it's not supposed to you can redirect it to the allowed toy. You might want to try out some different types of toys to find out the sort your dog likes, donate the ones it doesn't then stick to that sort. Some dogs like stuffed toys some don't some like squeaks etc.

If you get no other "toy" get a kong in the right size & up size when fully grown. Set up a routine when you leave the dog from day one. Stick to that routine and your dog will learn that it means you are leaving but that you are coming back. It can help head off separation anxiety. Kongs are great for this if you make last step of the routine giving them a treat stuffed kong to distract them with.
posted by wwax at 7:00 PM on December 14, 2017

Best answer: Whatever your long-term plans, keep the dog in your bedroom with you on the first night. If you can get something that smells like the pup's litter/mom, all the better. That puppy will have slept with it's litter every night up to this point and even if you do everything you can to set up for success, that first night is a drastic change and you should be prepared for a night of whining. It gets better real fast but the first night can be rough.

Our pup would eventually grow to a 90Lbs adult so we didn't want to let her up on the bed ever but if I could do that first night over again I'd have put the crate up on a platform so I could have the door right up next to the edge of the bed for the first night or three. We started with the crate out in the living room but moved it into the bedroom in a hurry. That helped some but I think that sleeping with her litter mates would have been the only thing that would have completely put her at ease that first night.

She outgrew that crate and we stopped using it's larger replacement. We put a baby gate up at the end of the hall so she could get to the kitchen and living room where there are a lot more ways for her to get into trouble. We still put it up but only because the dog gives us looks and seems uncomfortable if we don't.

Potty training is mostly about routine. Feed at regular times, wait about 20 minutes, go outside. If the dog pees or poops, reward them (praise, treat, pets) and go back inside. If nothing happens after 10 minutes. Go back in but keep a close eye on them. Don't even take them off a leash. After a minute, go back out. Repeat until you get some success.

Same thing with water. Either give your dog water at regular intervals or pay close attention to when the dog drinks and be ready to take them outside 10 or so minutes after.

Start working on socializing right away. The sooner you can convince your dog that the world is wonderful and new people, places, dogs, and things are fun and safe, the safer your dog will be. Ditto for training, especially recall.

Don't think too hard about treats. Slow cooked boneless chicken breasts are cheap and easy. You can also just get a couple of different options from the store. For all that their sniffers are like mobile instant CSI crime labs, they don't have a great sense of taste. You just need small little bits and your dog will mostly not care that much and be happy regardless.

Same deal with chew toys. Nothing too hard or that will break off in to bits to choke on or perforate a bowel, otherwise try stuff out and see if the dog has a preference. They also like novelty so it's good to try new stuff anyways.

This isn't really a training resource exactly but I'm in the middle of reading this book: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know and I cannot recommend it highly enough! It does an excellent job of explaining the anatomy of your dog's senses and how that influences their perception and relationship with us. It'll give you a sense of what being a dog is like and it'll add a lot of insight and understanding to other training resources as well as your interactions with your dog. It's utterly fascinating.
posted by VTX at 7:49 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cheap out on a bed. Maybe even use old blankets or something. My wonderful, nearly puppy-problem-free, beautifully behaved dog ate, then peed on, then ate again his first TWO beds and crate pad. Then he got old blankets for a while. Then he got a really nice bed, once he had grown out of being a dumbass, and he's still using it (and treating it with respect).

Spend big money on leash/collar/harness, microchip service, food/treats, and chew toys. Buying for quality on those things keeps your pet healthy and safe.

If you want, splurge LATER on things like beds and carriers, feeding bowls, and water fountains once your dog has hit full size.

Blankets and stuffy toys can be dirt cheap. You can use old tupperwares for food dishes, I promise you your dog won't care.
posted by phunniemee at 8:27 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A crate that's large enough to be comfortable but limits the space they would be tempted to eliminate in will really help with potty training. Having a dog who is crate trained will also make your life so much easier in the long run (safe spot when visitors come over, easier to travel, keeps them safe from getting into things they shouldn't), so I would recommend a crate that comes with a removable partition that can grow with the pup. I love Midwest Dog Crates and they make a lot of styles with multiple doors that I like. You don't need to buy a specific crate cover, but I do like to have one over the crate to create a more den like environment. I find the wire crates easier to clean but for tough chewers it may not be appropriate.

I also find a puppy playpen (we use an x-pen that's clipped to a crate so they can snooze in there) with tarps underneath to be indispensable when you need a break from the puppy but want to give them room to play without getting in trouble. I can't imagine having a puppy around without one! I foster puppies (and dogs) and one of the long-term foster families with the same organization told me their pro tip is to forget pee pads and just use rags to clean up. Naturally, the puppies enjoy playing with the rags so that's a toy and a clean up in one! I found this a lot cheaper since puppies are pee/poop machines who also love to eat pee pads because they are not so smart.

Accept—more than that, embrace!—your dog's natural behaviors (shredding, digging, foraging, chewing, licking) and channel them into appropriate activities with mostly free or repurposed materials: cardboard boxes, an area in the garden it's okay for them to dig, toilet paper/paper towel tubes, an old towel that you hide treats in and let them snuffle out, a ice cube tray with frozen broth and treats, etc. For puppies you'll need to supervise them to make sure they're not eating anything they shouldn't be, but once you start with dog enrichment you'll be hooked and everything becomes a potential source of fun for your dog and a lot of it can keep them occupied for hours. I can't recommend this Canine Enrichment Facebook group enough. It's changed my dog's lives and I no longer buy expensive toys for them because there's so many great ideas posted daily that I can do with things I already have.

Our foster and resident dogs' favorite activity is always searching for kibble/treats on a "snuffle mat" (which can be a scrap of carpet with high pile, or a purchased mat made for foraging, or one you can make yourself with fleece strips) or even just kibble flung into the grass. An enriched environment that works a puppy/dog's mind will make for a well-behaved and tired out dog, so don't miss an opportunity when it comes to feeding to add enrichment — I basically never feed my dogs out of bowls anymore. On that note, this is another Facebook group about going "beyond the bowl" that's full of awesome ideas for puppies.

Enjoy :)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:49 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: All I had when I brought my puppy home:
Crate (with an old pillow instead of a bed bc there will be accidents)
Water/food bowls
Poop bags
A couple of toys
A couple of things for him to chew on
Collar and leash

That was all I needed for those first few days. Enjoy your new puppy! He will drive you crazy at least three times in the first week but also be sweet and fun and adorable.
posted by lunasol at 11:07 PM on December 14, 2017

Best answer: Make sure the bowls you use are dishwasher safe. Wash them regularly. Check and clean your outdoor water bowl daily. Keep it out of the sun. Clean up poop as soon as possible, but daily at a minimum to keep your pup from being harassed by flies. So you will need a shovel or a scooper and a disposal plan (trash for us, but some people use other methods). Likewise water or hose down wherever put is hanging out in the yard at least once a week, so you will need a hose that can reach the area.

Nthing the advice to skip the bed for now; use old towels and blankets. Put an old shirt with your scent in the bed area, even is pup sleeps in the same room as you (but don't have pup in your room if you are a light sleeper - the rustling around or possibly snoring may wake you). If you will crate train then start from day one. If you feel confident in your abilities to sterilize a crate you can borrow one from a friend or get one on CL; if not get your own. But yes sterilize anything that another dog has interacted with.

Ask what the dog is eating and have that on hand. After a week or two you can begin to transition to the food you want to offer by mixing 25% new food for a few days, then 50%, then 75%, until you've done the full transition.
posted by vignettist at 11:43 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

The zero-day lists here have been good. I might summarize one aspect as
(1) A crate and pad
(2) A long term confinement area -- maybe an exercise pen that's big enough for them to galumph a little bit in, or enough baby gates to limit them to a puppy-proofed area that you're not going to be super-horrified if they pee/poo there, because babies gonna accident. If your home doesn't have an area with a floor that can tolerate being shat/pissed upon, you can get a 6x9 sheet of ugly vinyl flooring for cheap from Lowes/Home Despot and put that under an x-pen.

A note about chewies -- soft(ish) things only. You should be able to dent it with your thumbnail. Chewies that are "long lasting" are a false economy. At one point a well-meaning and very knowledgeable person who was taking one of Nina's babies home brought her an antler to chew. She loved it, and it lasted quite a while! Weeks! And because she is a hard chewer she gave herself slab fractures of both her big premolars and had to have them extracted! Yay! I forget what this actually cost us, because biscotti works at a vet clinic, but for civilians this would have cost in the neighborhood of USD3000 and it has affected her life a little bit. Kongs are fine.

You can't know whether the pup is a hard chewer or not, so NO HARD THINGS. Edible, not-too-hard chews. Get ones that are made in North America and not in China because Chinese-company QC is not good.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:53 AM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Echoing the thoughts on the dog's bed. My dog definitely ate the donut bed we got for him for the living room, and the crate pad. When he was older we got him a nice foam crate pad, and then he barfed on it...turns out that while the cover was washable, the foam was shot, so we just fold up towels and put them inside the cover.
posted by radioamy at 10:24 AM on December 15, 2017

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