Asking Yourself How to Prepare for a Puppy? Here are 13 Tips from a Dog Trainer.
Step 3 of 16 in the Dogly Puppy Channel
with Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals, Training Advocate

If you're a soon-to-be puppy parent, here's a quick new puppy checklist with recommendations from a certified trainer's perspective to make sure you're all set before your puppy arrives. Then you can spend your time focusing on loving and enjoying your new pup!

Amid all the love and hubbub of bringing a new puppy home, it's easy to forget necessary puppy supplies that can make settling in SO much simpler.

Here's a checklist of new puppy essentials to make your new puppy's life (and yours) easier, happier, and healthier...


#1: Stainless steel food bowls & water bowls

Of course, you'll want food and water bowls to suit your dog's size. The material matters too. Studies show that stainless steel is the healthiest, most naturally sanitary choice.

Be sure your bowls are grade 304 (18/8) stainless which doesn't corrode or rust, and doesn't release chemicals into food or water as plastics, lower quality steel/metal mixes, and other materials can. I like these bowls that meet all the requirements, have no-slip bottoms, and have flat edges for your puppy's tongue safety. (+ they're dishwasher-safe!)

#2: Your dog's recommended food & treats

Complete and balanced nutrition in puppy food is especially important since puppies are in a critical stage of developing strong bones, muscles, and all systems throughout their growing bodies. It's worth planning in advance and thinking about your individual puppy's size, breed type, specific age, and any other special considerations.

For advice from certified nutritionists (and the opportunity to ask questions) on best choices for your dog, jump into Dogly's Basic Nutrition Channel here and the puppy guides in the Life Stage Feeding Channel here.

And remember, treats are food too - so make them nutritious!

You'll want to stock up on healthy treats since you'll be doing lots of positive reinforcement with your new puppy as you work together on potty training, all kinds of puppy training, and building your communication and trust.

I recommend with puppies, and all dogs actually, to keep small, easily breakable treats on hand/in your pocket/in a treat pouch at all times, including when you're around the house, so you're always ready to reward your puppy whenever you catch them being good and showing good behaviors you were hoping for.

For all my positive training and reinforcement, I choose softer training treats dogs love that can be broken into small pieces for frequent, repetitive rewarding.


#3: At least 2 dog beds

You'll want to have a dog bed placed in certain rooms around your home where your puppy can feel comfortable, secure - and close to you. Dogs spend a ton of time on their beds, so we want to make sure that along with being super comfy, they're also durable, washable, and made of good fabrics with no allergy-triggering chemicals.

Lots of choices, but denim is always a good bet for all those reasons - and one of my go-tos is here on Dogly whether your dog is a circle-sleeper (Urban Denim Round Bed) or a chin-rester (Urban Denim Lounge Bed). And for an on-the-go rest spot or a cozy pad for a crate, you might want to have a chill pad for your dog as well.

Dogs are also social sleepers - they feel more at home sleeping in their social group, which is why your puppy loves to sleep with you on your bed.(All of this is totally fine from a certified trainer/behaviorist perspective, btw - except for when you're house-training your new puppy and will probably want to use your puppy's crate. It's a complete myth that allowing dogs on your bed or the couch in addition to their own beds somehow contributes to separation anxiety or gives them some kind of "power" over you.)

#4: Covers for your couches

You'll often hear us talk about setting up your puppy for success - that means removing as many opportunities for mistakes and mishaps as possible. Puppies do make mistakes, and it's easy to puppy proof your favorite couches and chairs. Why worry unnecessarily about furnishings when you have a new puppy to snuggle and love!

Here's a cover that looks like it's from a human design store, and, trust me, anything liquid literally rolls right off.

#5: Enrichment such as fillable treat dispensing toys, snuffle mats, interactive toys

Enrichment to keep your new puppy engaged mentally and comforted is a good idea anytime but especially as your new puppy is getting settled and is working out extra energy and maybe anxiety. A few of my favorite engaging, fun toys...

For treat-dispensing, interactive toys:

Recommended for fun, slow-down eating at meal time, as a positive distraction for grooming, or just satisfying enrichment:

  • "Taco" snuffle mat- combines dogs' natural instincts and love of foraging and sniffing with added rewards of finding hidden food or treats
  • Lick pad/mat - perfect for occupying your puppy with the naturally calming action of licking as he/she gets every last bit of peanut butter, yogurt, pumpkin, etc from the lick pad. BPA free, food-grade silicone so it's safe for your pup, also dishwasher safe, with suction cups to keep it securely in place.

Note for any "stuffable" chew toy: always keep an eye on your puppy and size up for safety reasons, to make sure your pup doesn't ingest the toy!


#6: Dog poop bags, pee pads, natural enzymatic cleaners

Potty-related supplies may be the least glamorous of dog-owner purchases, but you can enjoy some form-follows-function style with some of your poop paraphernalia choices and always have them at the ready.

If you're like many dog owners (and me), you've scuffled with poop bags that are almost impossible to get open just when you need to get the job done and focus back on your dog.

  • I love these poop bags that open with no effort.
  • To keep them handy, my favorite poop bag holder for style and sustainability: made of leather-like cork in a range of colors from turquoise to tan.

If your new puppy or foster is very young or going outside to potty means a public space and your puppy isn't fully vaccinated, puppy pee pads are a lifesaver.

And since puppy accidents do happen, stock up on a good, all-natural, enzymatic cleaner to remove stains and odors on a molecular level and keep accidents no big deal.

A couple favorites:

#7: Dog collar & id tag

Many rescues and shelters microchip their new puppies before they're adopted, a great service getting more lost dogs and cats happily returned to their families. You'll want to be sure to update your pup's registration with your contact info.

If your new puppy is old enough to go out and about with you in public, you don't want to rely on a microchip alone; you'll still want to have physical tags since microchips require a special reader (usually found at rescues, animal control, vets).

You'll also want to be aware of the weight of the tags and go light to start to match your puppy's size. Pet tag silencers can be a good idea too. They're often overlooked but dogs have highly acute hearing and the non-stop jingle jangle of the tags near their ears can affect their emotions and hearing.

When it comes to dog collars, the one kind of dog collar you never want for your puppy or grown dog is a collar that is in any way aversive. That means chain collars, choke collars, "pinch" or prong collars, shock collars. All collars you would never find on Dogly. They are all painful and punitive and counter-productive for building trust and a good behavioral foundation with your dog.

Good choices are endless in regular flat collars as well as martingale collars. Again, keep your puppy's size and the weight of any collar hardware in mind. For walks, you always want a harness (see #8!).

#8: Y-shaped harness

For leash walking, we always recommend a harness whether for a puppy or an adult dog. And always a Y-shaped harness to avoid any eye, trachea or spinal injuries and behavioral problems. The even distribution you get with a harness (vs any and all pressure on the neck with a collar + leash) is so much healthier for your pup's neck and body, and really the only way to teach proper leash-walking skills.

When choosing a harness, always make sure your dog has a full range of motion in the forelegs, is not restricted in his/her gait or movement, and that the harness doesn’t pinch at the chest or irritate your dog's elbows.

As noted under collars and worth underscoring: we never recommend any punishment or aversive training equipment such as choke chains, prong collars or shock collars due to how inhumane they are, how they create pain, leading to increased aggression and serious behavioral fallout.

Effective, successful training never involves pain. Training and walks should be your joyful time together for positive learning and reinforcement!


My recommended harnesses are:

For safety, it's also a good idea to have a sturdy, designed-for-dogs seat belt that attaches to your dog's harness. You'll be keeping your puppy secure in the car - starting with the first car ride home!


#9: Dog leash (NO retractable leashes!)

When choosing a leash, every good certified professional trainer will tell you one absolute "no": retractable leashes. They're not effective for good control and training and they are dangerous for both you and your puppy. Too many sad incidents have occurred with burns and deep cuts on dogs' bodies and humans' legs, as well as malfunctioning handles that end up clunking along behind a loose dog, frightened and running into dangerous situations.

Otherwise, you have plenty of great options in regular, usually 6-foot leashes. You might also want an extra-long leash for safe retrieving in an open space or for training. Look for a leash in a weight that matches your puppy's size; you don't want big, heavy hardware clasp hooks that weigh down your puppy.

#10: Baby gate, ex-pen and/or crate for management

Depending on your puppy, you'll want to have some type of management equipment to create a contained space that can be a secure haven while separating your new pup from potential trouble. Management equipment helps you set your new puppy up for success.

New dog management tools include:

  • Baby gates
  • Playpens (also called an ex-pen or exercise pen)
  • Crate


Your crate choice depends on your purpose. There are lots of choices from fabric, plastic to metal, but make sure it is lightweight, portable and collapsible so you can use it in the car or take it to the vet if needed. You want to make sure your pup can stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably.

Crates, playpens, and gates are especially good management tools with young puppies and during potty training. Check out the potty training guides here in the Puppy Channel for the best ways to use these tools for your puppy's potty training success.

#11: Daily care and grooming supplies

Start your new puppy off right by getting comfortable with grooming and handling early on. Everything from tooth brushing to nail trimming is so much easier in the future when your dog is used to it as a puppy.

Dental care is now known to have an enormous impact on our dogs' longevity, so it's important to make it a routine, everyday thing, to be no big deal for your puppy and you. Thankfully for all new puppy parents, there are more options for keeping your dog's teeth clean easily on a daily basis:

Or a dog toothbrush or "fingerbrush" with dog toothpaste (NOT human toothpaste) or coconut oil which dogs love and cleans teeth naturally!

For more on how to brush your pup's teeth and easily keep up with dental hygiene, jump over to the Dental Health Channel here on Dogly.

For your dog's skin and coat, be sure your dog shampoo and conditioner are all natural and chemical free to avoid allergy issues:

For trimming your puppy's nails, taking a tip from my fear-free certified groomer friends for recommendations:


#12: Calming essences & diffusers

Natural calmers are incredibly useful to have around your house when you first bring home your new puppy to decrease stress as your pup adapts to this all-new environment.

What they are

Natural calmers are holistic flower/herb essences, in either spray or liquid essence form, that help your new pet naturally calm down. They're also helpful to spray in your car for the car ride home which can be stressful as well as being useful in crates, on beds, wherever and whenever your puppy could use some calm:

#13: Warm coat if winter

Depending on the season, your puppy will need some protection for walks and outdoor play. These super-soft, carefully fitted (& reasonably priced from a woman-owned company we love) coats are a Dogly favorite that move well with your pup and are soft on the inside next to your puppy's body as well as on the outside. They're the coat equivalent of wrapping your puppy in a cozy fleece blanket.

+ Endless love, patience, & appropriate positive training

What any new dog or new puppy needs most is your boundless patience and love. Plus some appropriate positive training to settle into family life and the wider world with ease.

Recommended Products

Next up in the Puppy Channel on Dogly

Now that you know how to prepare for a puppy, check out the rest of the Puppy Channel for more on all things puppy training. Or jump over to the Life Stage Feeding Channel to find out the foods a certified canine nutritionist recommends for your puppy's best health.

If you have any questions on training and your puppy, just ask us in the Community discussion! Or get customized training help in your dog's plan here.

Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Ruby because she brings her rescue experiences to our dogs - to increase our bond, decrease behavior issues.

Ruby guides you

New Dogs - Manners - Enrichment - Reactivity - Barking - Walking

Ruby is certified

Low Stress Handling - Fear Free Veterinary Professional - Fear Free Shelters - Shelter Welfare - Enrichment - & Canine Behaviour