As you scroll through pictures of puppies online, and visit your local shelter to pick out the perfect companion for your family, be sure to also check out local resources and supplies. Don't worry if you've already found the perfect puppy -- most shelters will be more than happy to keep her for an extra day or two so that you can be sure your home is ready for the arrival. Below are the top things to have lined up before the puppy comes come:
Puppy zone: set aside a portion of your home to be puppy-friendly. Make sure there are no cords or chewable items, set up a kennel, and possibly a puppy play pen (a miniature moveable fence) to ensure the area stays secure. This is especially helpful if you have children at home, as it provides a safe barrier between the dog and kids that will prevent problems all around. It also helps set up a routine for the puppy -- they have a safe place to go where they know what to expect.
Kennel or crate: you may want to purchase one large enough for your puppy when he is full grown, if you know how big that will be. Crates should be large enough for dogs to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably, but no larger. Many come with a moveable partition so you can slowly expand the available area as your pup grows. Look at your local pet store and online for one that will work for your dog. You may want to get bed or blanket to put in the bottom and fleece blankets work well (they can easily be washed during the early months of house training).
Food and water bowls: choose ceramic or stainless ones, which are easier to keep clean.
talk to the shelter about what they are currently feeding your puppy -- you'll want to start with the exact same food for the first week or two, then you can gradually transition over to a new food if desired. Don't worry about grain-free or high protein diets (they aren't actually any better for your dog--it's just good marketing!), but DO select a food for your type of puppy. All dogs should eat a puppy food (instead of an adult dog food) until 10-14 months old, depending on the breed. Large and giant breeds (labradors, great danes, etc.) should eat a food formulated for large/giant breeds (these have a different balance of minerals and nutrients to help joint growth), and small breeds may benefit from the smaller kibble size of small breed puppy foods. Choose a bland protein (e.g. chicken or lamb) to avoid upset stomachs, and keep the food consistent -- don't switch between brands, formulas, or flavors unless absolutely necessary.
look for sturdy fabric and soft rubber toys for chewing. Avoid hard plastics (these can break teeth) and rawhides (which can be swallowed and cause obstructions). Your local pet shop is guaranteed to be well stocked, and there are infinite options available online.
Veterinarian: ask around for recommendations, and look online for options. You'll want a practice that is open during the hours convenient for your schedule AND the local emergency hospital in case of out-of-hours problems (in some areas these will be one and the same). Get in touch with the office before you get a puppy and ask to talk to someone about what your puppy is likely to need. Puppies should receive vaccines every few weeks until they are 16 weeks old, as well as deworming treatments, parasite preventatives, and basic screening tests. Set up an appointment at the office for the day after your new puppy comes home so you can make sure he is healthy and on track.
Trainer: your puppy is guaranteed to need some training. Most of this you will be doing at home, but having professional guidance will make the process faster and less stressful. House training and obedience work can begin as soon as your puppy comes home (well, give him a day or two to settle in!). Different breeds (and mixes) will have widely varying needs for routine and a trainer can help you set up the best option. They are also a wonderful resource before you get your puppy as they can help you understand what breeds are a good fit for your lifestyle. Most will be more than happy to talk to you before you get a puppy to offer some advice and set up a time to help you start your puppy's education. The early weeks and months are critical for socialization, and having a plan in place ahead of time will help your puppy grow into a calm, confident dog.
Insurance: you may not be able to start pet insurance before you bring the puppy home (and in some cases, have your first vet visit), but researching options beforehand is a good idea. Veterinary care can add up quickly, and have a financial plan in place ahead of time is critical. If your puppy breaks her leg, do you have enough in savings to cover the cost? What if she develops diabetes in 5 years? Starting insurance coverage when your puppy is young and healthy will prevent pre-existing conditions from being excluded from your policy, and will help keep the long term rates as low as possible. Talk to someone at the insurance company/ies about what is and is not covered by their various plans, so you have a full understanding of what you are getting.
Once you have the above lined up, you are ready to get to the main event, your new puppy! Enjoy the next few months of adorable cuteness as she settles in!
About Dr. Wolff
Dr. Sarah Wolff lives in New York City with her menagerie--two dogs and a trouble-maker cat--and works with cats and dogs across the city. She is especially interested in preventative medicine and behavior, helping our pets be healthy and happy members of our families. She graduated with distinction from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh after studying biology at the University of Virginia.