What dog stuff can you get before you know *which* dog you're getting?
January 4, 2022 10:27 AM   Subscribe

This is a question about dog products, along the lines of this one. What can we pre-buy or at least pre-select for a newly adopted adult dog if all we know is they weigh less than 40 lbs?

The way adoption/rescue works in our area, you get approved by a rescue, and then when a potential dog appears, you indicate interest. If the rescue agrees, they want put that dog in your house RIGHT NOW to free up space in foster homes/shelters.

This is exciting and we are excited! But we also may have under 48 hours notice when an actual, specific dog arriving in our house. I am very interested to hear what you *absolutely want to have* in place for TBD Dog's first night, and of those things, which ones suck if they don't fit the specific dog. For instance, crates need to be sized to the dog, but how much leeway is there, practically speaking?

We are expecting Mr/Ms TBD to be upset/confused and need to decompress during the first few days after the transition, and want to help them feel as safe/cared-for as possible. Please help me sort the vast(!!) world(!!) of dog items into (a) Buy/prep now, (b) Buy at the last minute, and (c) skip or use a temporary solution for now (we're thinking towels instead of a sized dog bed, for instance)/
posted by heyforfour to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Leash and dog poop bags are the bare minimum, I think. (Collar or harness needs to fit the dog and you'll probably want to buy whatever food the dog's used to at first.) You could do without a dedicated dog food and water bowl if you don't mind the dog using your own bowls for a few days.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:49 AM on January 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

You can absolutely do towels or a couple of blankets until you know what size bed you're going to need.

You don't need anything right away except food water and love. Most dogs come to new homes with a starter amount of food. If you change the kind of food, you want to do it gradually.

Things I would get:

A basic leash.

A dog tag with your phone number on it. Dogs usually come with a basic collar.

Training treats. Chew toys or bone. A stuffie toy for snuggling or disemboweling.

Most important: the Protocol for Relaxation is the absolute best training program and will help your pup relax into their new home.

Congratulations on the new dog!!!
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 11:01 AM on January 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

I think my primary concerns would be a cozy bed (you can get a "medium" bed and know it'll be plenty for up to 40lbs) and a dog-specific blanket (I'd suggest sleeping with it in your bed until the dog arrives so it smells like you), at least one chew-type toy and one soft toy, treats, a modest amount of the food you probably intend to feed going forward.

I recommend having some baby gate type devices just so you can block off places that turn out to need blocking off when the dog arrives. For us buying this specific set of ex-pen panels has been kind of a game changer, because it's 8 good-sized individual path blockers OR two or three panels can be pinned together to make a freestanding screen, or it can be assembled as designed to be a containment area.

Like, we have a spare bedroom where one of our dogs will go to look for trouble to get into, and the other dog who is mostly blind and a little senile keeps getting lost in there thinking it goes outside, and one of those panels turned sideways across the doorway keeps the dogs out but lets the HVAC circulate normally (we do the same at our bathroom doors). I have two of them pinned together to make a V-shaped freestanding blocker at my office doorway (no door) to keep the senile dog contained when we are doing stuff nearby that will confuse her if she gets in the middle of it. Could a determined dog knock them down? Yes, but they make such good visual deterrents that even the trouble-dog hasn't ever tried. And if you end up with a small enough dog who isn't a breakout artist, this might be all you need in terms of a crate.

You do want a leash or two (never hurts to have extras anyway, I carry one in my car for emergencies), and you want to get a harness as soon as possible but it probably does need to wait until you know the actual size and shape of the dog.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:08 AM on January 4, 2022

I don't know what the actual advice by dog professionals is on (wire) dog crates, but I was iffy between two sizes for mine, and chose the larger, even though it wasn't strictly necessary. It did come with a extra "wall" so I could make the interior smaller, if need be. Nice for my purpose, since it was medically necessary to make my dog REST and stay as still as possible at the time. Now that he's healed, I'm glad he has a bit more room to move around, especially since he's not very stable on his feet. It also gives me room to give him an extra blanket, because he's a snuggly one that gets cold easy and likes to hide in blankets.
posted by stormyteal at 11:09 AM on January 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Right away:

Your new friend will probably come with a leash and collar. I personally would strongly recommend getting a back-up collar and a carabiner to attach the two when going out. (I guess the collar will have to wait til day one, but I would not put it off.) New rescues are big flight risks. A back-up collar has prevented more than one tragedy.

Food and water bowls, and a mat of some kind to go under them to contain spills.

Poop bags. If you don't already have one, some kind of small bag that can carry the poop bags, treats, and a house key and that you don't mind getting crumbs in.

A decent-sized binkie--err on the side of too big. This blanket has been a massive favorite among family dogs.

I'd get some wee-wee pads, not to put out right away, but just in case the dog has an emergency issue. They're not that expensive and better to have available than not.
posted by praemunire at 11:12 AM on January 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

IMHO, there's absolutely nothing that a dog requires in their first 24-48 hours that you can't either buy in a quick trip to the grocery store or pet store on the way to or from picking up said dog (food, leash, collar, maybe some non-rawhide chews), or improvise from things around the house (old blankets, food/water bowls). Also, a lot of rescues give out coupons to PetSmart or similar to new adopters, along with a basic leash and collar.
posted by drlith at 11:19 AM on January 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not an Object, but I'd check into local vets beforehand! If your area is anything like mine, you might have a long wait time as a new patient. Between staff burnout and the high number of Pandemic Puppies, it's a thing. I might even make an appointment if my chosen vet isn't taking new patients for X months!

When I adopted my dog last February, it didn't even occur to me and I waited for 3 months to get her in!
posted by functionequalsform at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2022 [9 favorites]

Between staff burnout and the high number of Pandemic Puppies, it's a thing. I might even make an appointment if my chosen vet isn't taking new patients for X months!

Cannot cosign this harder. Vet care is an absolute mess in a lot of places right now; in my city even routine vet tech/shot appointments are months out.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dogs usually come with a basic collar.

The shelter I work with does not provide collars with their dogs so that's a good thing to find out before the big day. With a new dog who's not familiar with you, I recommend either a Martingale style collar or a harness rather than a basic collar. It's not hard for many dogs to slip a basic collar and they're prone to trying to do so on walks during the first few days of a new home.

If you have the space, just get a 3-4 foot dog bed. My foster dogs have ranged from 20 to 80 lbs and all been fine with that size.

Definitely have treats on hand - they will make establishing a bond easier. A chew toy you can direct them to if they start going after furniture is also a good idea.

Consider getting an enzyme based pee cleaner that's appropriate for whatever flooring you have.

If you intend to allow the dog up on the sofa, you might get a sofa cover ahead of time.

As far as crates, my experience has been that older dogs (I've fostered dozens of them) who have not been previously crate trained take poorly to it. If it's something that you're sure that you want to pursue, I would advise stocking up on earplugs.
posted by Candleman at 11:58 AM on January 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Oh, yeah, Nature's Miracle!!! Can't believe I forgot that.
posted by praemunire at 12:09 PM on January 4, 2022

Seconding that a harness instead of a collar is a good idea, especially for small dogs. But even big ones are much easier to walk with a harness! Also cuts down on the dog choking themselves on the collar.
posted by Ahniya at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

If the dog hasn't been crate trained (or even if it has, since some people use a... creative definition of the term) an exercise pen or some other way of blocking off a quiet, safe area (baby gate, small room) will be a big help so you can crate train in small doses that avoid causing the dog distress. You could get a crate now since larger crates aren't a problem for most dogs, even if not potty trained, since you'll want to do everything possible to prevent peeing in the crate in the first place. If you're really low on space you could wait and see the minimum size needed though.

A y-shaped back or front clip harness will be needed right away to allow safe walking if the dog is a puller, as many rescues are. Dogs can quickly and permanently damage their trachea from pulling too hard on a collar (especially the ones claiming to prevent pulling, but even regular ones). Though you might need to wait on this if the dog can be anywhere in the chihuahua to border collie range.

Most toys big enough for a 40 pound dog will be fine for smaller dogs too so I'd get a few types to see what the dog prefers. I'd also want a kong right away and these are good for a pretty big range of sizes, though a very tiny dog might struggle with one for 40 pound dogs.

I'd wait on the bed for now, you can use blankets until you see if potty training/chew training is needed. Most dog beds are hard to clean thoroughly in the case of accidents.

Food and a few types of treats for sure - small bags may be best until you see how it's tolerated. Ask your vet what they recommend for food too once you see them. A lot of rescues (and people in general) have strongly held misconceptions about the best foods.
posted by randomnity at 1:35 PM on January 4, 2022

Best answer: Echoing a lot of advice above, if I had my dog adoption to do over again, I would pick up a leash, a few types treats (could be human edible ones like cheese and cooked chicken), enzyme based pee cleaner, a pen/gate, and improvise a bed out of towels before I adopted the dog. Then I'd take the dog home and either go out or have my partner go out and pick up a crate, bed, appropriately sized harness, and food for the pup once I knew its size.

My dog came with a collar, a partial bag of food and a bed (the foster home was a one-time-only home and didn't have a use for it). Depending on the rescue, they may be very explicit about what they provide or what you need to bring in order to take the dog home with you.

My dog was a middle-aged when we rescued her and doesn't know what to do with toys, so we ended up giving away all our chew toys/balls/etc. to dogs who appreciate them. She was also "creatively" housebroken so we went through a lot of cleaner and puppy pads in the first month. ymmv.
posted by A Blue Moon at 1:44 PM on January 4, 2022

Nthing everything here. I got my puppy in October and bought so many things, none of which I needed. The crate was the wrong size. The first xpen I hated. I had bought a ton of toys she ignored because until I got her home I didnt know she only really wanted plushies. So before you know preferences, less is more.

But the few things I did right before puppers got home? Got them setup with a vet and trainer ASAP. The wait list was months for both. And yes, Nature's Miracle and about a bazillion rolls of paper towel.
posted by cgg at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2022

If your prospective dog is under 30lbs, this is a great harness. It's dead simple to get into/out of, it's reflective, and the leash attachment is a backup for the single buckle, which is the only failure point of the harness. I have (rarely) picked up both of my small dogs by the harness in emergency situations--it stays on and stays secure.

Agree about safety first--a good leash, a HARNESS, a tag with your phone number on it to put on the collar immediately.

We don't use my xpen, we don't use my crate, so neither of those were necessary purchases for me. Dogs love old blankets and towels on the floor/couch to nestle down in. It's important to have a bed, but you don't need it day 1. When a dog is getting used to its new home it'll try out a few different places to sleep to find where it feels safe. Provide blankets in a few spots, give it options.

Get a bag of training treats--they're tiny, stinky, and soft--they're a great option for winning a new friend with food without overfeeding or overstimulating them.
posted by phunniemee at 2:48 PM on January 4, 2022

I got an xpen in anticipation for my dog’s arrival. He weighed seven pounds at the time and it seemed like it would come in handy while he was acclimating to our apartment. He jumped out of it the very first night we had him and we never used it again!
posted by cakelite at 3:37 PM on January 4, 2022

So much depends on the specific dog, but every rescue I’ve had/known has adored having many soft blankets to snuggle into. I am a crazy animal lady and therefore have folded blankets all over my home, but two or three should be enough. Stack two of them and you have a dog bed, throw one over the couch, they’re very versatile.
posted by nancynickerson at 4:27 PM on January 4, 2022

Best answer: If you know the general size of the dog, I can easily recommend these crates. We had foster dogs in the standard metal crates and they were loud and kind of distressing, plus one dog cut his little paw on a piece.

These soft-ish crates are more cavelike (dogs love caves) but don't jangle and are slightly flexible so when they lie against one side they don't get grillmarks. They also have multiple openings for petting, adding treats and toys etc, PLUS they fold down into an included case. Way better all around.

That said it's not absolutely necessary if you know the dog is house trained. A blanket or something is fine - but it's been my experience that dogs like to have a home within your home, and this is the best I've found.

You might also buy like 5 varieties of treats to see which motivate Mr/Ms Newdog the most.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:40 PM on January 4, 2022

Response by poster: I marked some best answers, but every one of these was super helpful. Also, I just learned the identity of a dog that will be here in ~36 hours and I feel so much more prepared than I would have!

For anyone else reading, the vet advice was SPOT ON, yikes. I called around and now have a new-client appointment scheduled for late February, and they advised me to also go to Vetco (inside Petco) to get missing vaccines taken care of right away (we know she needs lyme, may call the other vet again to check on any others.) They are only open Sundays but had plenty of appointments.

We're due for snow, and a friend also recommended me these booties, erring on the large size, so we have something available until we know specific sizes.

Dog tax, I'm so excited to meet her!!
posted by heyforfour at 8:55 AM on January 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

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