First and foremost, congrats on getting a new puppy! Or thinking of getting a new puppy! Welcome to an exciting and adventurous life of being pet parent, for it is anything but easy! In this blog post, we will go over puppy essentials to make parenting a bit easier. The first year is almost the hardest year of parenting, but when done right, it will make the years to come much more enjoyable. Here are 10 essentials to get you on the right path.
1) Wired Crate
From personal experience, the wired crate was my life saver when Faye (my Golden Retriever) was a puppy. If you have some time, please watch Zak George's crate training video. He teaches you how to introduce the wired crate to your pup to minimize their whining when they are left alone. The crate is great for a couple of things: prevent your pup from wandering the house and chewing on everything, potty training, and having their little own safe place.
Potty training using the crate, or crate training, is the most effective way to teach your pup to use the restroom outside. When you have time, please watch the video mentioned above.
Let me elaborate on the last point: having their little safe place. Sometimes, I will take Faye with me on mini vacations where we will stay at dog friendly hotels and I will bring her crate with me. At night, instead of sleeping, she loves to wander around the room, be super curious, and not sleep. Right when I open her crate, she goes right inside (without me saying a word), lays down and sleeps. Of course at home she does not sleep in her crate anymore, but in unfamiliar areas, she feels more comfortable sleeping in her crate, which I feel like is an added bonus of crate training.
2) A Buckle Style Collar
I will always prefer the quick release buckle style collars compared to belt style collars. If you ever bring your dog to boarding facility or a doggy day camp, they will require you to have a buckle style collar. This is because if your dog's collar ever gets stuck on the crate and the employees need to remove the collar, it is much easier to just press down on the buckle clasps than to cut the belt style collar (which is usually the only option). A buckle style will always be less hazardous to your dog compared to belt style collar.
3) A Leash to last you a lifetime
dog parents will have multiple leashes (I know I do) but I always have my go-to leash. I would recommend a leash that is on the thicker side and prefer rope leashes to flat leashes. This is because when your pup decides to chew on the leash, and it will happen, its harder for them to chew through a rope leash compared to a flat leash. Please remember that your leash is the main defense between your puppy and the car driving down the street. Price should not be your main factor when buying a leash but having a comfortable handle, sturdy clasp, and quality leash material should be of utmost importance, for it is what is going to save your dog's life. I will always recommend our leash, under the catalog section, to any dog parent because we do focus on the most important aspect: safety.
4) Chew toys!
Please invest in a chew toy your dog will love! You will constantly be telling your pup to drop your socks, napkins, and whatever they can get their mouth on and replace it with a chew toy. This will teach them what are off limits and what isn't: the chew toy. Once your dog starts teething, they will want to chew of something to alleviate the discomfort. By having a quality chew toy that they will love, it will minimize your pup targeting your belongings as their new chew toy. Trust me, my glasses, my girlfriend's laptop, and my carpet are prime examples of needing a sturdy chew toy.
5) Quality dog food
I can't stress this enough. So many people go the cheap route to save a bit of money but in the end, it is not worth it. Having quality food plays a HUGE part in the quality of life for your dog. By feeding better dog kibble, it could add years to you dog's life. As much as we want to, our dogs are not going to be here forever, but if I can spend a little more time with them, I will take it. For new parents, look for food with high protein content and high fats to help those growing bones!
I fed Faye Merrick's when she was a puppy and I still continue to feed her Merrick's(Shes almost 5 now). I have gone through other brands but always seem to come back to Merrick's grain free dry kibble. I never had an issue with them and they have not had a recall on their dry kibble that I am aware of. But if you decide not to go with Merrick's, please look at the ingredients listed on the bag; the first 3 ingredients should be meat!
Ingredients to stay away from: corn, by products, and artificial flavoring. Please do not fall for brand marketing ploys: the words "premium, holistic, and all natural." Don't get me wrong, they might be true but do not base your decisions on those words.
Meat, Meat, and more meat! Dogs are carnivores and thrive off meat! If you can afford grain free, I would highly recommend grain free foods.
6) Metal Bowl
I have always been a fan of metal bowls. They are very sturdy and easy to clean. When Faye was a puppy, she had a very bad habit of splashing her water bowl. She would literally digs the water and by having a metal bowl, it holds up well against the puppy paws.
I do not have experience with ceramic bowls but owners love them because you can design them. I have seen many dog videos where owners use ceramic bowls and have their dog's name on the outside (which is super cool). The only downside is I heard some low quality ceramic bowls contained lead. I am unsure of how true this is but I'd rather be safe than sorry.
7) Puppy Shampoo
My dog dreads bath time and, in all honesty, I dread giving her a bath (Not good for my back). The general rule is 1 bath every 2 weeks at the earliest; when you give your dog a bath, you strip the natural oils from their coat, which can lead to dryness and itchiness. My dog has very sensitive skin and finding a great shampoo is tough. The first shampoo I used was EarthBath; it worked well, with main ingredients being oatmeal and aloe to help soothe the skin. Right now we use OxGord that contains oatmeal, which I like a bit more because it smells better.
Please do not use human shampoo or dish washing soap. When choosing a shampoo, look for oatmeal, aloe, and coconut. They are great for the fur and the skin. If you are in a brick and mortar store, open the bottle and smell it first. I believe smell plays an important factor: if you can't stand the smell, don't buy it.
8) High quality treats
Please do not get Beggin' Strips, Milk Bones, or any highly marketed treats with a cheap price tag. They are cheap for a reason: cheap ingredients. I love Zuke's and have always bought Zuke's for Faye. They use a lot of meat in their ingredients and they smell like meat. They are also great for pups because they do come in smaller size bites to help with puppy training. Some great alternatives to dog treats are fruits and small cuts of meat. Sometimes if we run out of treats at home, we will cut up small pieces of apples and bananas as replacements.
9) Pet Insurance (Optional)
Pet insurance is optional but it can save you a lot of money in the long run. In the last 9 months, we would have spent close to $1,000 in vet bills for Faye. From her annual check-ups and boosters to going through the trash and having digestion issues, we went to the vet about 5 times in 9 months. The premiums I paid for insurance for 9 months added up to almost $750. That is almost $300 in savings! I know what you are thinking: "Well if my dog doesn't have any issues, my monthly premiums are a waste of money!" All it takes is that one trip to the vet that costs 2k-3k for you to regret not buying insurance and trust me, it happens.
I would highly recommend insurance if your dog's breed is prone to health issues, like Golden Retrievers; because Faye is a Golden Retriever, she is prone to hip dysplasia, cancer, and skin issues. We decided to get insurance early to cover hereditary diseases and disorders, like hip dysplasia to save us money when she gets older.
10) Patience, time and grit
Please understand that having a puppy is not easy. You will have the days of aggravation because your puppy chewed up your favorite shoes. You will have the days where you dog decided to go through the trash and its going to take you 2 hours to clean it up. You will have the days your dog tears up the new furniture that costs a fortune. All we ask is, at the end of the day, put in the work (even though you may be upset) but understand it is a process and it will all be worth it. Remember, all great things are never easy. The cliche saying, "Rome was not built in a day," has so much truth and couldn't be more relevant.
Of all 10 that we mentioned in this blog post, having the patience, time and grit is most important. I believe being a new dog parent requires a lot of patience and having the attitude to not give up on your dog. Shelters are usually full after major holidays, such as Christmas and Valentine's Day because humans do not realize the amount of work it takes to have a dog and they usually give up on them. If you put in the time, have the patience to train them, and have the grit to overcome the some of sleepless nights, you deserve their unconditional love and loyalty.
I hope this has been informative, especially #10. If you have any additions to this list, please leave it in the comments!