raising a puppy checklist (the do's & don'ts)
Updated: Jun 6, 2020
Who doesn't love a brand new puppy? (That's a rhetorical question!) They have the cutest ears, belly, paws... well just about every single part of them is absolutely adorable. They are little trouble makers, but they are bundles of love, who bring so much joy to any house hold. Don't get me wrong, it is HARD WORK. I've been told it is almost the equivilent to raising a child (I wouldn't know, I don't have kids). Overall, I wanted to share my puppy checklist as well as my do's and don'ts of bringing a lil' pup home for the first time.
My boyfriend and I brought home our very first dog this past December. His name is Wesley James, and he is an absolute love. He is a Chihuahua, but he doesn't look like a normal Chihuahua, he looks more like a fox (to us at least). He's the apple of our eye and probably perceived as spoiled rotten, but we wouldn't have it any other way. We adopted him from the LoveBugs Rescue, and I HIGHLY recommend adopting a dog; there are so many dogs that need homes and adopting is the perfect way to help save a life/find your perfect dog. I also recommend doing your research on each rescue, find the right fit for you. I personally visited and met with a few rescues before finding the perfect one.
The LoveBugs Rescue is located in Orange County, California. They have the most organized and safe process when it comes to adopting your pup. Throughout the application process they really try to match the right dog with the right person/family. I really appreciate this because they are trying to find their dogs a forever home and with that comes a little bit of a longer procedure, but it is SO worth it (in my eyes). If you want to know more about the adoption process, I am thinking of writing another blog post about this, so please message me or leave a comment below and I will let you know once I have that posted!
I would say one of the most important things I did during the process of adopting our dog, was prepping ahead of time. I talked to the rescue and discussed what our dog's "everyday" looked like. From food to toys to his sleeping arrangements, all of this is important to making a easy transition for your pup. I ordered all my supplies ahead of time, so when Wesley came home with us, it immediately felt like his home too.
The list of essentials (linked) that I highly recommend are the following:
-slow feeder bowl: puppy's tend to scarf down their food too quick and end up getting themselves sick, so a slow feeder bowl is ideal for you little ones
-snuffle matt: amazing for their IQ. I hide little treats or food in it everyday, they learn to use their nose to find the treats and it keeps them busy for awhile (which is also nice for you)
-soft crate: I personally hate the look of normal crates, they look like little jail cells to me, so I got one off amazon that it like a little tent that has a homey feel for your pup
-shampoo: so your pup smells amazing. It's important to get one that safe for their delicate skin, so I'll link one here
-fur brush: I chose these gloves that actually brush my dog's fur, it gives him a little massage while I remove the excess hair. He loves it and works like a charm
-bed: I chose one that helps with anxiety, a lot of pups get anxiety when transitioning from one house to another, so I wanted his bed to be 'his' space
-food: I get an organic brand that has no refined grains. I also add a little water and let it soak in there for a little bit so it gets soft/easier for him to eat
-treats: human grade organic treats or actual fruits and veggies are best! Wes loves cucumber, bananas, strawberries, and lol pretty much anything that we give him
-bones: I get healthy, easy to digest bones, to avoid any digestion issues
-toys: make sure they are puppy friendly, we had a very bad experience with a toy that was too big for our pup, which landed him in the ER, so please be careful
-collar/tag/leash/harness: I trained Wes to walk with a harness, he learned to not pull just fine. Make sure to measure your dog and get the right fit, I just guessed my first time and it didn't go very well
-pee pads or grass pad: depending on how you're potty training
-puppy gate: to block off any areas that you don't want your pup having access to yet
-dog bag/carrier: especially for small dogs, this is key for taking them around to socialize and adjust to the real world before they have all of their shots
It is ideal to have everything set up and ready for when you bring your new pup home. The first night is always the hardest. I've seen multiple debates on whether to crate train your dog or not. I've had multiple dogs in my life, and I've never crate trained before, but with Wesley we did a slight variation that will make those who are opposed, a bit more comfortable.
We set up crate on a chair/stool right next to our bed at eye level. This makes the first few nights a whole lot easier. I personally am not someone who can hear a puppy cry and not immediately run over and coddle them. So with this method, I left the (soft) crate zipper open slightly (on the top) so that I could stick my hand in a little when Wes would cry. I would just pet him and sooth him to sleep and then quietly take my hand back out. I will say the first night I barely got any sleep, but I felt better knowing I could be there for him while establishing boundaries (that the crate is where he needed to learn to sleep, at least until he was 100% potty trained lol). He still to this day loves his crate, he goes and takes naps in it all the time. It's his little cave.
Now that he's a little older (about six months), I have another really amazing area for him to chill in during the day or when we leave the house. I got him a fun play pen that is travel friendly and another one of Wesley's favorite spots in the house. I definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to use a play pen instead of a crate. You can put their bed, toys, and pee pads in it if you want. It's a safer play pen because it's made of soft material instead of the usual metal pens, so your pup cannot accidentally hurt him/herself. It's light weight, easy to carry and travel with, it even comes with a convenient travel case. This is forsure one of my best purchases.
Another tip, which is HUGE, is to get a behavioral aid toy. It's essentially a stuffed animal with a beating heart device and warm pack insert lol. When a dog goes from sleeping with his litter, to sleeping alone in a crate, that can be a huge transition for them. So to make it easier, I got Wesley a behavioral aid toy that he could sleep/cuddle with and simulate another dog. I'll link it here. Wesley immediately gravitated to his stuffed animal and I think it helped us immensely when it came to him getting accustomed to his new home.
As for puppy training, I personally use positive reinforcement and redirection at all times. I think that what people don't understand is that dogs don't think or process things like we do. They may cause a bit of trouble, but their overall goal is to please you. Once I researched the best ways to train your dog, amongst having plenty of practice with my own family dogs throughout my life, I finally found a way to teach Wesley how to listen to me and be pretty self sufficient. I know that there are many different ways to go about training your puppy, but I stress that you try to use positive reinforcement as much as possible as well as redirection when things get tough. Instead of reacting right away to everything your dog does, take a step back and really think about why your pup is doing what he/she is doing. Their actions are not always as they seem in our eyes and I think it's important to be as patient as possible. They are learning and trying their very best!
Another really, really important tip for new puppy owners, is to SOCIALIZE. Socializing your dog is key. Have you ever gone out to a public area and seen a really well behaved dog? That's probably because their owner socialized them early and got them used to being around people and animals, as well as sounds, objects, and anything else that may be foreign to them. Socializing seems like you would just introduce your dog to people and animals, but really it's you introducing them to the world. They have never seen anything before, so to decrease their anxiety overall, socializing is vital for your puppy. My entire life, with all of my other dogs, I NEVER did this, and each and every one of them did not like other dogs or people very much. They barked at everything or ran away and cowered, so I knew that there must be some sort of trick to this that we didn't do before. Sooo... we socialized Wesley so much in the very beginning, because our overall goal was to bring him almost everywhere with us (on trips, to the store, to restaurants, etc.). I knew that I wanted a well behaved dog that I could take anywhere in public, so I slowly but surely brought him everywhere and introduced him to new things almost everyday. If you're worried about your pup's shots and being around other animals, I suggest using a carrier so they can at least go out and SEE everything/get accustomed to the newness that is the world. It's so so so so important for them, so please just socialize as much as you can (while still making sure they're comfortable of course, building that trust that you'll keep them safe is JUST as important).
Overall, just bond and enjoy the moments with your little one because they grow up SO fast (ngl I already miss how little Wesley used to be). They can be a little POS sometimes, but raising a puppy has been such a rewarding process and I've actually loved every minute of it!
I've created a little checklist of things to get for your pup before he comes home as well as some extras and little training reminders. I've attached a free PDF checklist for you and if that doesn't work, please feel free to reach out to me and I will email it to you! I hope this was helpful and most importantly, enjoy your new pup!!