So you’re getting a dog! 🙌
I am so, so happy for you. I bet that this is something that you’ve been dreaming of for a long time.
Have you said things like this to yourself in the past?
“I’ll get a dog when I move out into my own apartment.”
“I’ll get a dog when I have more flexibility at work.”
“I’ll get a dog when I can afford a place with a yard."
And on and on. (All valid reasons to wait, by the way.)
Whatever the reason, you weren’t ready before and now you are. So let’s just take a moment to acknowledge this milestone and whole new level of adulting. 👏👏👏
It’s going to be a ton of work, but you won’t regret it.
Okay, so how do you get ready for a new puppy?
I’ve separated this guide into five sections:
1. Mentally Prepare,
2. Gather Your Supplies,
3. Prepare Your House,
4. Make A Socialization Plan,
5. Make A Training Plan.
After you read this post, you'll have a full understanding of everything you need to do BEFORE you get your new puppy and you'll have a clear game plan going into your first days of dog ownership. Skip around if you'd like and make sure you read through it all before you pick up your puppy!
Oh! And I've also put together an easy done-for-you shopping list with links to where you can find all of the new puppy essentials you'll need. It's a free download, so grab it to be 100% sure you have all of the gear you need before you bring your pup home!
Okay, great! Let's get started.
Step One: Mentally Prepare
I remember being totally freaked out in the days after we brought Emmet home. He was the cutest puppy I’d ever seen, but omg was he difficult. He wouldn’t let us hold him (he’d just squirm out of our arms), he ran around like a maniac (do you know about zoomies?), he bit our arms up and down until we bled, and he whined in a pitch I had never even heard before.
I think this is why puppies are so cute. It’s nature’s way of smoothing over all of those difficult parts. :) Based on my personal experience and the experience of helping clients with their new puppies, here are the key mindset points you need to know before you bring your puppy home.
1. POTTY TRAINING A PUPPY IS HARD, IT’S ANNOYING, AND IT’LL TRY YOUR PATIENCE
Potty training will be your first task as a new dog parent and let me tell you: it sucks. Just know that.
In the beginning, your puppy won’t be able to hold it longer than an hour or two. He’ll wake up you up, whining, in the middle of the night and then he’ll wake you up again as the sun is rising.
He’ll make mistakes and go in the house, even when you think he should know better. You’ll feel like he’s doing it to spite you. (He’s not.)
My advice? Make a potty training plan now and just know that the first few weeks are going to be hard. If you’re mentally prepared for the challenge, you will be way less likely to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
2. KNOW THAT YOU WILL LOSE SLEEP
Losing sleep goes hand in hand with potty training. If you absolutely need your 8 hours, plan to go to bed a little earlier than you normally do for the first week or two.
That way you’re not freaking out that you missed sleep when you have to get up in the middle of the night to let your dog out.
3. CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE
If possible, try to bring your puppy home during a time when things are relatively quiet in your social life and work life. You want to be able to be home as much as possible without worrying about a big project at work, mandatory social events, or hosting out-of-town friends.
If you work a 9-5 job, the best time to get a puppy is right before a long weekend so you can maximize the time you have at home with your new puppy.
If you can swing it, cash in on your vacation days, call in sick, or consider taking a few days of unpaid time off. I know, I know, this sounds crazy, but your puppy’s first week will probably be more demanding than you realize and the more time you have to encourage and reward positive behavior, the better.
4. PUPPY BLUES: YOU MIGHT REGRET GETTING A PUPPY
It seems impossible now... but at some point you might have second thoughts about getting a dog. It will cross your mind that you shouldn’t have adopted a puppy after all and can you just give him back to the shelter or the breeder?
A lot of people I've talked to about their first month as a dog owner feel overwhelmed at the responsibilities and the sudden loss of freedom. It’s a time of transition! Transitions are hard.
By the way, this is so common that there’s a name for it: the puppy blues.
The puppy blues, aka puppy depression, can come up at any time. When your puppy bites you and then runs away and then poops in your favorite pair of shoes… it might hit you. It might feel like just a flash of regret or you may start to full on resent your puppy.
It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry. But do try to shift your mindset into something more positive and healthy. And know this: it will pass.
5. THIS SHOULD BE YOUR MINDSET: YOUR PUPPY DOESN’T KNOW THE RULES YET
You are about to bring a puppy into your human world and he’s going to have zero idea what you want from him. He doesn’t know that outside is where he’s supposed to go potty or that he’s allowed to chew on that one stuffed animal you bought for him, but not the balled up sock on your bedroom floor.
He’s not going to know that “sit” means “put your butt on the floor” or why you would ever want him to do that. He's also not going to know that the vacuum cleaner isn't a terrible monster that's out to get him.
You have to show him exactly what you want him to do (show him, not tell him, because he’s also not going to speak English.) You have to show him that the human world is a safe, happy place. Be thorough, be patient, and have a sense of humor about it.
If you remember this simple mindset (and go through all of my training materials, of course :)) you’re well on your way to puppy bliss.
6. KNOW THAT IT WILL GET EASIER
Anything worth doing is going to be difficult. But anything you do for awhile is bound to get easier, right?
You will get the hang of being a dog mom or dad sooner than you know it. And just as you get the hang of it, your pup will get used to you too!
Raising and training a puppy is difficult, but having a happy, loyal, well-behaved dog makes it all worth it. It really is as wonderful as you’ve been imagining!So before you even bring your new puppy home, it's good to keep this all in mind. Be prepared to be overwhelmed, get in the right frame of mind, and know that the puppy stage doesn't actually last all that long! Enjoy it while it lasts!
Step Two: Gather Your Supplies
Okay, now that you are mentally prepared to bring home your new puppy, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what supplies you actually need for a new dog.
To make it easier, I created a downloadable (or printable) pdf with all of the info that you need!
POTTY TRAINING SUPPLIES
1. A Crate (Or Two)
This is an essential potty training tool. You can get the plastic kennel style, the wire style, or something a little more modern if you have a budget to work with.
I’d actually recommend getting two crates - one to keep right next to your bed in your room and one to keep in your living room.
The Crate Next To Your Bed
Your puppy will sleep in a crate next to your bed for the first month or so while he’s potty training! Trust me, it’ll make it go so much faster. Even if you're dreaming of having your dog sleep in bed with you, I highly recommend you wait until after he is completely potty trained. This will also help you establish some boundaries and help your pup grow some early independence.
The Crate In Your Living Room
Your puppy will hang in his living room crate for stretches during the day. He won't live in this crate - he'll have freedom to explore whenever you are watching him, but you'll soon see that it's an invaluable tool for early potty training.
If you’re fine moving the crate from your living room to your bedroom every day, you can also just get one.
2. Soft And Snuggly Bedding For Both Crates:
You want to make your puppy's crate(s) completely comfortable and irresistible. Pick up a crate pad or a bed that fits in the crate or layer it with soft and snuggly blankets.
3. An Exercise Pen Or Puppy Gate:
When you first get your puppy, you’ll restrict where he can go in the house without supervision. If you let him roam around freely, he’s definitely going to chew something or pee on something that you don’t want him to.
This isn’t just annoying - that freedom actually encourages bad behavior. Say, for example, your puppy gnaws on the leg of your table while you aren’t watching. He’s going to a) love life, b) decide that sometimes he’s allowed to chew on it (because no one stopped him) and continue to do it (because it’s fun).
The point of an exercise pen or puppy gate is to never give your puppy the chance to be naughty. When they’re trained, they can have the run of the house. While they are little chewing and peeing machines, not so much. :)
So, I’d say that an exercise pen is a must if you’ll be gone during the day for hours at a time. If you have a convenient spot that is set off but easily accessible - like a kitchen - where he can stay, you can purchase a dog gate instead of a pen to block the area off.
4. Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover:
Your puppy is going to have some accidents in your house. I know, it sucks, but that’s just the reality. This cleaner has a special enzyme that gets rid of the urine smell so he’s not tempted to go in the same place over and over again.
You don't have to buy this exact brand, but look for the anti-smell enzyme.
5. Plastic Dog Waste Bags:
You'll need these throughout your dog's life, so it's safe to buy these in bulk to start. Check out the more eco-friendly biodegradable and compostable options.
5. Dog Potty Bells (optional):
If you want to teach your puppy to ring a bell to go outside to potty, start from his very first day and buy them before you bring your puppy home.
1. Food And Water Bowls:
You may want to start with puppy-sized bowls and buy bigger ones down the road. I make ceramic dog bowls that are great (and no, I'm not only saying that because I make them!) They are FDA-food safe, microwave-safe, and ceramic - so they're almost impossible for puppies to tip over. Obviously, I recommend them :-)
2. A Kong Or Puzzle Toy:
Every meal is an opportunity to help your puppy get some energy out. Kongs and puzzle toys make your puppy work for his food and burn some mental energy - great! For the first few months, I recommend feeding your puppy with one of these rather than just putting food in a bowl.
3. High-Quality Puppy Food:
Look for food that is specifically made for puppies and that has an animal protein listed as one of the top ingredients. If you want to get into it, there are entire sites dedicated to ranking the best dog foods.
Pick a good one, but don't start with a huge bag! If you have a picky puppy, you may have to try a few different types of food before you land on one that he will eat.
Go ahead and buy a big bag of bully sticks (I won't tell you what they're made of...). You can also pick up an elk antler, Himalayan dog chew, or natural cow hooves. You’ll use these to re-direct puppy bites and work on resource guarding training.
Do not get rawhide chews. There's a debate on whether they are safe for puppies or not, but there are so many other options out there, that you might as well play it safe.
1. Training treats:
Training starts the day you bring your puppy home, so stock up on treats to be prepared! You’ll want small, moist treats that are made specifically for training.
I like Zukes, but pick whatever brand looks good to you. Just buy one bag before you actually get your puppy, because you will probably have to adjust the style and flavor of treats before you find one that your pup loves.
2. A Clicker (Optional):
Clickers are used for clicker training, which is a method of marking and rewarding good behavior. Clickers are cheap and readily available online, so I'd recommend you pick one up and try it to see if you like it!
They can make training go faster, especially as you get into more advanced behaviors.
1. A Simple, Soft Puppy Harness
Depending on your puppy's breed, he will probably outgrow this in a month or two anyway, so no need to go nuts here. Before your puppy has his shots, you'll mostly use this to take him out to his potty spot.
2. Flat Collar
You want your puppy to get used to wearing a collar early. You will likely have to get a bigger size as he grows, so a basic collar is fine to start.
3. 4-Foot Leash:
You won’t be taking your puppy for walks outside in the first month or so (until he has all of his shots), but a harness and leash are useful for taking your puppy directly to his outdoor potty spot.
4. Plenty of Fun Toys!
You want to wear your puppy out with as much play as possible! Stuffed toys that squeak are always fun; flirt poles are great for getting your little guy to run back and forth; and balls are a must-have too!
Step Three: Get Your House Ready
Okay great, you got your gear. Nice work! Now let's take a quick look around your house and see what needs to be done.
1. DE-CLUTTER YOUR HOUSE
All of those random things lying around your floor - piles of magazines, Amazon boxes, the bag of cloth shopping bags? Your puppy is going to chew them up. At the very least he’s going to put them in his mouth and decide how it feels.
The day or weekend before you bring your puppy home, take an hour or two and look at your house through a puppy’s eyes. What is eye level and looks fun to chew? Pick it up and move it, throw it in your closet, or put it in a designated “no puppy” room. Just get it off the floor for now.
Be sure to tuck away any electrical cords or sharp objects that could hurt your puppy.
Do you have a beloved vintage Moroccan rug in your living room that really doesn’t need to get dog pee on it? Roll it up and stash it somewhere. I know! it really ties the room together, but stash it away for now. It's just temporary.
Be proactive in how you prepare your house and you’ll save yourself potential grief and frustration. You want to set your puppy up for success!
2. ESTABLISH A SAFE ZONE
I recommend that you decide on a “safe zone” - a kitchen, bathroom, or a cleared-out section of the living room - where you remove anything that your puppy could chew or pee on. Clear out the space, line it with newspapers, and surround it with a puppy pen (aka exercise pen) or close it off with a gate.
This is where your puppy will hang out when he is not supervised. This is also where his second crate, his bed, and his food and water bowls go.
This area should be in the main part of the house where the action is. If you are home, your puppy wants to see you. (I'm sure you don't want to tuck your puppy away in the back of the house either!) Most people choose a cleared out spot in their living room if they have hardwood floors or their kitchen if they don't.
3. DECIDE WHERE THE POTTY SPOT WILL BE
Before you bring your puppy home, find a spot outside where you will take your puppy to potty. Any dirt or grass patch that is reasonably close to your front or back door will do. You are going to take your puppy to this same spot over and over, so pick a place that is convenient.
If possible, you should train your dog to potty outside from the very beginning - even if you live in an apartment. Don't start with the indoor pee pads and try to transition later. It just adds an extra layer of complexity and it slows everything down.
If you live in an apartment building, but have a small balcony or patio, this is your spot. Put a pad down or get a grass patch for your balcony.
Exceptions: Of course not everyone will be able to skip indoor pee pads, so don't feel bad if you think you have to use them.
If you live on the 20th floor of an apartment building with no outdoor space... you may have to use indoor pee pads. You just won't have much success asking your puppy to hold it while you ride in the elevator for several minutes and make your way outdoors.
Decide on one place now where you will put the pee pads. Most people choose a bathroom since they are typically tiled and easy-to-clean if your pup misses his mark.
4. TELL YOUR NEIGHBORS THAT YOU’RE GETTING A PUPPY
Do you know your neighbors? Go over and meet them if you don’t. While you’re at it, casually mention that you're getting a puppy soon and invite them over to meet the new pup when you bring him home.
Including your neighbors in on the fun is always a good idea - they’ll have more sympathy if your puppy barks or whines and you never know who might volunteer to dog sit. 😉
They can also help you with your puppy socialization efforts.
Step Four: Make A Socialization Plan
1. YOU NEED TO START SOCIALIZING YOUR PUPPY ON DAY ONE
There’s a ton of research you can read about early puppy socialization, but just know this: you should start socializing your puppy the day you bring him home as if his life depends on it.
His life, in fact, does depend on it - dogs who aren’t socialized as puppies are way more likely to develop behavior issues like fear-based aggression, anxiety, and destructive behaviors. It’s sad, but true: these are the dogs that end up in shelters every year.
Your puppy is not going to magically grow into a well-adjusted, well-behaved angel. You have to work at it.
The good news is that socializing your new puppy is so fun!
In the first three months of your puppy's life, he's naturally more curious than fearful - puppies are social little beings who haven’t learned to be afraid of the world yet.
So this is the magic window: the first three months of life, from the day he is born until he is about 13 weeks old. If your puppy is 8 or 9 weeks when you get him, you have about a month. (*You’ll continue to socialize your pup throughout his whole life, but experts say this is the most important time.)
It’s your job to take advantage of his curiosity and show your pup that the human world is nothing to be afraid of. Vacuum cleaners, tall men in hats, babies, big dogs, walking on metal grates - all nothing to be afraid of!
Download a socialization checklist and work on introducing your puppy to as many different sounds, textures, types of people, other dogs, and situations as possible in the first month that you have him.
Plan it out! Get something on the calendar with your friends who have dogs and make sure to take advantage of this time.
*And if your puppy is already older than 13 weeks when you get him, don’t worry! You can (and definitely should) still socialize your dog! He just might be in a slightly more shy or anxious stage of life - nothing you can’t overcome with positive socialization and conditioning.
2. UNDERSTAND THE 16 WEEK RULE
Most new dog owners are surprised to hear that their puppy really shouldn’t go outside or meet other dogs until they have all of their shots. This typically happens around the 16 week mark…which is after that magic socialization window we just talked about.
It’s true, before he has his shots, your puppy will be at risk for catching some nasty diseases - like parvovirus - that you definitely want to protect him from.
But you have to weigh the risks.
In my opinion, the risks of your puppy getting these illnesses is tiny compared to the danger your puppy will be in if you don't socialize him. You should still be careful, of course, but don't let fear hold you back from socializing your dog.
Here are the no-brainer, not-worth-it, big things to avoid in the 16 weeks before your puppy has his shots:
Doggie day care centers
Pet stores and other magnets for unknown dogs
So, yes, this means that you shouldn’t take your dog out for a walk around the neighborhood (yet). But you should fill up your dog’s social calendar and schedule playdates with:
Every adult dog and puppy you know
Your friends who have private yards: think of people who have grass, cement, bark, stone, and different textures
All types of people: different races, genders, and sizes of people
The delivery people who often visit your house
All of the known dogs in your neighborhood
Take your puppy in your car and drive over to their houses.
Walk outside with your puppy in a big basket or a dog carrier.
Take your puppy on the bus or subway, as long as he’s happy to ride in a bag or carrier.
The bottom line is: don’t let the “no public sidewalks” rule deter you from giving your puppy a rich social life!
3. FIND A PUPPY SOCIALIZATION CLASS
Before you bring your pup home, look for a local puppy kindergarten class that is specifically made for socializing young puppies. These are becoming more and more popular across the country.
Call and make sure that they take puppies who haven’t finished their shots yet and that they thoroughly disinfect the area before class.
You want to find a class that offers a safe environment where puppies can play freely with each other off-leash. If the class offers training too - great! You want to start training your puppy as soon as possible. But the most important thing at this age is socialization.
Not only will it be fun (and adorable and a little scary) to watch your puppy get charged at, bitten, and tossed around by other small pups, it will actually teach him how to play in a healthy, balanced way.
When the other puppies play-bite your little guy, it will teach him how sharp little puppy teeth are and that he should be careful when he bites you too!
Bonus: you will likely meet other dog owners there and you can set up playdates and swap stories.
Step Five: Make A Training Plan
Great dogs aren't born, they are made. Behind every good dog is a dedicated owner who has put in a ton of work. Why do I feel like I'm starting to sound like a cheesy motivational poster?
You can read about creating your training plan elsewhere on my site, but I needed to mention it here because it's something you should be thinking about before you even bring your puppy home.
Your immediate training goal is to show your puppy exactly how you'd like him to behave and that starts now.
Visualize what the perfect dog means to you. (Does he walk nicely on the leash, greet people without jumping, sit and wait at meal times until you release him? You will have the train each of these behaviors.)
Understand that this will take work.
And commit yourself to training your dog.
It is no fun to have an aggressive dog or an anxious dog or a dog who freaks out and rips up your couch when you step out of your house for 10 minutes to buy groceries. It will weigh heavily on you, it really will.
So as you prepare to bring your dog home, know that having a training plan is a huge piece of puzzle and expect to spend at least 30 minutes every single day working with your dog.
Visit the training section of my site for all of the details you need.
Okay! This should help you adequately prepare for your puppy’s arrival! Stay tuned for my guides on how to make a training plan and what to do in your puppy’s first week at home.
HERE'S A RECAP:
If you're getting ready to bring a new puppy home, you've got a few things to do to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row. To review, here are your action items:
Mentally prepare yourself to lose sleep, be challenged by an adorable biting machine, and possibly be peed on. It will be worth it.
Request vacation days or unpaid time off so you can maximize your time home with your new puppy.
Download your free shopping list from this blog post and purchase everything you'll need.
Go through your house and move all electrical cords, sharp objects, or items you do not want to be chewed. Think about establishing one "puppy-free" room where you can keep these things for now.
Decide on the "safe zone" where your puppy will hang out during the day. Create a boundary around this area. Put one of the crates, the food and water bowls, and plenty of toys in this area.
Set up another crate next to your bed with soft bedding.
Decide where your dog's potty zone will be.
Fill up your calendar with a month's worth of socialization activities for your puppy, including visits to friend's houses, meeting as many other dogs and puppies as possible, and experiencing different noises, smells, and interactions.
Find an early puppy socialization class in your area.
Create a positive reinforcement training plan you can stick to.
NOW YOU GO:
What are your fears about getting a puppy? Do you feel prepared?
There's always more to learn, so if you already have a dog at home - help us out! What are some things you know now and wish you knew before you brought your puppy home?
Share in the comments below!
And don't forget to grab your free shopping list with links that'll help you quickly buy everything you need!