Shop for your new buddy before he comes home. That way you'll be able to devote yourself to getting to know each other instead of scurrying off to the store during those first few days. Let's see what you need.
A crate is like a den. Crates come in many forms—wire, plastic, aluminum, on wheels, with handles, and in various colors and sizes. For potty training, safe travel, and confinement if the dog is injured or ill, you can't beat a crate.
A Crate Idea
First, you need a crate. Before you decide that it's mean to crate a dog, ask yourself this: Would you turn a toddler loose in your house without supervision? A puppy is a canine toddler. He will explore nooks and crannies, put anything portable in his mouth, and potty when the urge hits. He doesn't know what's right or wrong, and he doesn't know what's safe and unsafe.
A few simple precautions can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to dogs and collars. For safety …
- Never leave two or more dogs together unsupervised with collars on—they can entangle their legs or jaws in one another's collars and be seriously injured or even killed.
- Check the fit often and readjust or replace the collar when your puppy outgrows it.
- Never use a slip collar (choke chain) on a young puppy—it can cause severe damage to the throat and spine.
- Never leave a slip collar on a dog in a crate or when you aren't present.
Even if your new dog is past puppyhood, a crate is a good idea. A dog's first few days in a new home are stressful, and a crate provides a safe haven when you're gone. If you aren't sure that your new dog is completely housetrained, the crate will prevent accidents. All in all, a crate will keep your new friend and your belongings safe. And since you will supervise all free time, your dog will quickly learn what's allowed and what isn't.
Crates cost from $25 to $200 and are available from pet supply stores, discount stores, and online. The crate you purchase should be large enough to accommodate the adult dog your puppy will become, unless you're willing to buy a larger one when he outgrows a small one. Heavy-coated dogs often prefer well-ventilated wire crates because they stay cooler. Short-coated and tiny dogs, on the other hand, may prefer a plastic crate that retains more heat.
If you choose a wire crate, check that the bars are substantial enough to resist teeth and paws, and be sure the bars are spaced closely enough that your dog cannot get his head stuck between them if he gets too pushy. Make sure that the door fits tightly, and that the latch is secure. I've heard of puppies strangling when they forced their heads through bars or door frames and got stuck. Some dogs are escape artists, so check that the latch is out of reach of persistent paws and teeth.
Dogs are much safer traveling in a crate than they are loose in a car. Plastic, airline-approved crates offer the best protection in an accident, and if you expect to fly your dog, that's the kind of crate you'll need. If you choose wire, you may find that a folding crate is more convenient for the car than one that sets up with corner pins.
You may want to provide some padding for the bottom of the crate. If your pup likes to rip up his bedding, don't give him any for a while. Most dogs outgrow the need to tear their blankies, and adults tend to appreciate comfort more than pups do. Crate padding should be disposable or washable. One of the best crate pads I've found is a nonslip “furry” bathroom rug.
The Leash You Can Do
Never slip the loop on a leash over your wrist, unless your dog weighs less than 10 pounds. A sudden lunge of the dog could break your wrist. Teach children this rule and enforce it. Even a fairly small dog could pull a child over or drag a child into traffic. Safety first!
Your dog will need a collar and leash. Most places have laws that require all dogs to be under leash control. Besides, a leash will help keep your dog safe when he's outside your house and fenced yard. Don't underestimate the speed at which even a young puppy can get away from you and into danger.
An adjustable flat nylon collar with a quick-release closure works well for a growing puppy. Adjustable collars fold back on themselves so there's no dangling flap for a puppy to chew. Nylon collars come in a rainbow of colors and are inexpensive. Check the fit often and re-adjust or replace the collar when your puppy outgrows it. Provide your dog with an identification tag in case he gets lost. The tag should give at least your telephone number. You may want to look into having your puppy tattooed or microchipped for permanent identification.
You need a leash—or two leashes, in case one gets lost or chewed. Do not buy a chain leash. It can injure your puppy or you, and is not effective as a training tool. I don't like nylon leashes either. They can chafe or cut your hands and legs if a whirling puppy wraps one around you. Leather leashes are strong, kinder to your skin, and much more effective for training. Choose a leash appropriate to your dog. A 10-pound adult can be controlled with a quarter-inch leash, but if your pup will mature to 70 pounds, you'll want a 1-inch leash. Check the snap that fastens the leash to the collar. A big, heavy snap can frighten or injure a small puppy or dog if it whacks him in the face or teeth. Check out the construction quality. The hand loop and buckle should be stitched securely.
Leashes come in several lengths. Your choice depends on the size of your dog and your own preference. Some trainers like six-foot leashes, but I'm uncoordinated and find that much length a hazard except for specialized training. The best leash for controlling your dog on a walk is one that provides some slack, but not so much that the dog gets tangled up all the time.
You'll also need to get some grooming supplies. What you need will depend on the type of coat your dog has, and whether you will do all the grooming or only some of it, leaving the rest to a professional groomer.
Who doesn't like to shop for cute dog toys? There are plenty to choose from, so have fun shopping. Just remember that not all toys are safe. Puppies need to chew while they're teething, and many older dogs enjoy a good chewing session. Select good-quality chew toys, and throw them away when they develop sharp points or edges or become too small to be safe. Plastic eyes, synthetic stuffing, squeakers, and rawhides injure or even kill if swallowed. Select toys in sizes appropriate to your puppy so he can't swallow them. When in doubt about a toy's safety, ask your veterinarian.
You'll need food and dishes for your dog. If you're getting your puppy or dog from a responsible source, they will send home a starter supply of whatever he's eating, along with feeding instructions, but you'll need to buy some food before or shortly after your puppy comes home.
Choose dishes that will suit your grown dog. As your puppy grows, his schnoz may become bigger than the bowl he could have slept in as a puppy. Some dogs have special needs when it comes to dinnerware, and special bowls are available to accommodate them. Tall dogs, or older dogs with arthritis, may be more comfortable eating from elevated bowls, for instance, and long-eared dogs like Bassett Hounds and Cocker Spaniels do better with bowls designed to let the ears fall outside. Plastic bowls cause allergic reactions and other problems in some dogs, and some ceramic bowls made outside the United States contain lead and other toxins. Stainless steel bowls are unbeatable—they're sturdy, easy to clean, resistant to chewing and breakage, and are available in a wide range of sizes. You need one for food and at least one for water.
You'll want some treats for training and for the occasional reward for good behavior. Don't go overboard! Too many goodies will throw your pup's nutrition out of balance and can quickly lead to obesity. Buy healthy treats, and hand them out sparingly. Avoid products that are full of dyes—your dog doesn't care what color the cookie is. Ask your veterinarian's advice on treats. To control calories, try setting aside a portion of your puppy's daily ration to use as rewards. Somehow when kibble is doled out one bit at a time, it's special! Many dogs also enjoy carrots and small bits of fruits and other vegetables.