Your New Puppy Checklist: The Essential 2021 Guide

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What advice do you need as a new puppy parent?
We've detailed everything to start your new furry family member off on the right paw.
Bookmark this page or download the interactive PDF to make sure you don't miss anything!

Download the Interactive PDF

Congrats on your canine companion! Remember that new puppy parents will have a lot on their plate, so you should stock up on the essential supplies before bringing your future-BFF home for the first time.

What do you need on your checklist for raising a new puppy? We've detailed all the essentials owners should know to start your new family member off on the right paw. Our printable puppy checklist is grouped by category, so you can easily keep track of all the gear you need to become the greatest pet parent possible!

Table of Contents:

Bookmark this page or print the new puppy checklist PDF to make sure you don't miss anything!

Safety First

New puppy parents need to make sure to have an adjustable collar, leash, a name/ID tag with your phone number, and a rabies tag to verify that your pet has been vaccinated.

Pro Tip: Some owners include a backup contact on their puppy’s name tag in case they don't pick up in an emergency.

Many vets recommend harnesses because they offer greater control for you and greater comfort for your pup. Slip collars can be a helpful backup to pair with your harness for leash training. Slip collars simply slip over your puppy's head and will tighten or loosen based on how much they try to pull against the leash.

Puppy-proofing 101

To puppy-proof your home, you'll need to lock up any toxic substances (household cleaners, detergents, automotive or outdoor chemicals, glue, epoxies, etc.).

Get rid of any plants that are toxic to dogs. For example, Sago Palm is a common household plant that can poison your puppy! Ensure all medications are safely stored and locked away. Assume any medication will be poisonous unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, Prozac, Adderall, Xanax, Lipitor, and more are all poisonous medications.

Cover or contain all exposed electrical cords, trash bins, and bags (backpacks, purses, gym bags, etc.). Puppies will likely explore, find, and ingest objects or substances that you've thrown away or that may be lingering in your bags.

Pro Tip: Sugar-free gum is an extremely toxic substance for dogs, especially new puppies, so be cautious of anything they can get their paws on!

Create "safe spaces" for your pup with baby gates and crates. Gates can keep them from falling down the stairs or getting into places they shouldn't be, and crates help foster a sense of personal space they'll learn to rely on for comfort during stressful situations, like travel or thunderstorms.

Safety checklist for new puppies:

  • Adjustable collar
  • Leash
  • Harness
  • ID tag
  • Rabies tag
  • Gate
  • BONUS: Slip collar

Health & Veterinary Priorities

To give your pet a long, healthy, happy life, veterinary appointments should become a routine part of your life as a new puppy parent. Pet health insurance, like human health insurance, can be a literal lifesaver when it comes to affording treatment costs.

Compare pet insurance options across top providers with breed-specific risks in mind and investigate the fine print to understand how your premium might increase over time. To streamline your research process, get a personalized recommendation from Pawlicy Advisor to find the best fit plan for your unique puppy - no matter the provider.

Appointment scheduling

Keep a folder to centralize your puppy's veterinary records, vaccination schedule, and microchip registration. Microchips must be registered to have any value! While it won't serve as a GPS tracking device, it will allow any veterinarian or shelter to identify your dog and contact you if lost.

In fact, "pets with microchips are up to 20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners," according to AKC Reunite. They're also required in most cases of international travel, so it’s a good idea to tackle when they get fixed.

Schedule a spay or neuter appointment once your new puppy is old enough for surgery. Most pups between the ages of six to nine months old are great candidates but check with your vet for a personalized recommendation.

According to the ASPCA, spaying your female puppy before her first "heat" helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors. Neutering your male puppy helps prevent testicular cancer and several prostate issues.

Create a vaccination schedule with your veterinarian; most puppies should receive their first set around six or eight weeks old. Vaccines are proven to be the most effective measure in preventing various infectious diseases. They save pets’ lives, protect animal communities, prevent human injury, and help avoid costly veterinary bills.

NOTE: New puppy parents can save on vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, deworming, routine exams, and more by enrolling in a wellness plan. Wellness plans are separate from accident/illness coverage and are most useful for new puppies.

Vet With Dog Parent

Deworming is another critical priority to check off your list, as puppies are especially susceptible to parasites.

Schedule your next routine check-up appointment with your local veterinary team. Just as humans have annual physicals, your new puppy needs routine medical checkups to prevent serious illness or injury. Your vet might also sell flea and tick prevention.

Health & vet checklist for new puppies

  • Pet insurance
  • Folder for vet records
  • Vaccinations
  • Deworming
  • Flea/tick prevention
  • Spay/neuter appointment
  • Microchip implant
  • Routine checkups
  • BONUS: Breed research

Food & Treat Necessities

When choosing a food and water bowl, there are a few things you'll want to consider before buying the one that matches your decor scheme. Shallow bowls are generally great for puppies and small- to medium-size breeds. This is because the shallow design allows smaller dogs to reach the bottom of the dish without putting pressure on their throats.

Deep bowls are ideal for breeds with longer snouts. The depth will allow dogs with long snouts to eat more easily instead of chasing it around.

Wide bowls are great for dogs with long ears. The bulbous shape and more narrow opening prevent longer ears from getting wet or dirty.

For larger breeds, you might ultimately consider an elevated platform to reduce joint and neck strain, but consult your veterinarian first as this might induce a condition called Bloat in some larger breeds.

All dogs and puppies can benefit from "slow feeders,” or interactive, puzzle-based food bowls that mentally stimulate your pup while ensuring they don't eat too fast.

Choosing healthy puppy food

You'll want to get puppy food from a company that invests in scientific research and has undergone AAFCO feeding trials to ensure the puppy food composition follows certain guidelines to maximize nutrition.

Puppy food is higher in calories, which is important for their growing bodies, so you should not feed your new puppy standard adult dog food. You might want to investigate specialty foods that cater to your puppy's breed-specific nutrition needs. For example, larger breeds tend to need higher calcium levels to support their larger bone growth. Breed-specific food can also ensure the kibble size is appropriate for your unique puppy.

Food and treat checklist for new puppies

  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl
  • High-quality food
  • Low-calorie treats
  • BONUS: Slow feeder

Comforting Care

Crates provide a personal space for your puppy that they'll learn to rely on when they feel overwhelmed and/or when traveling. Just make sure the crate is big enough, but not too big. For puppies, look for crates with movable dividers so that they can start in a smaller space and grow into the grate - moving or removing the divider as they increase in size.

Dog beds provide a comfortable area for your puppy to rest. Over time you'll learn how your dog likes to sleep and can "upgrade" to something that better fits their comfort style. For example, some dogs like to be under blankets, some like to feel contained, and others like to spread out as much as possible. Your dog bed size and type should match their personal preference.

Puppies also benefit from having an old toy with them. Having the scent of their mother or littermates will help comfort them during the transition into their new living space.

Comfort checklist for new puppies

  • Crate
  • Dog bed
  • Old toy

Training for a Stronger Bond

Training - AKA puppy education - is a critical part of being a puppy parent and raising them into a loving, intelligent dog brimming with self-confidence. Like humans, confidence plays a huge role in a dog's happiness and ability to cope with stressors.

Dogs also experience emotions at a greater intensity than humans. When they feel a sense of accomplishment, it can bring absolute joy, and when they feel guilt, it can be a crippling weight. Positive reinforcement is the best way to train your dog. It will bolster your pup’s joy and confidence while deepening your connection. Never hit your dog and avoid using an angry tone meant to instill guilt as much as possible.

You should schedule a professional obedience training session for your puppy by the time they are eight to 10 weeks old. Their attention spans may be short, but it'll give you the framework to work with them on your own time every day.

Clicker training is an excellent method of training that will reduce the need to reward with treats. Over time, the dog will associate the positive experience of getting a treat with the sound of the clicker. This will make it easier to time the reward action more closely with a specific behavior or action you want to reinforce (and will cut down on calorie consumption and the mess of carrying treats in your pockets).

Handling your puppy's paws and ears is another important ritual that you should practice to get them accustomed to human touch. This will also simulate the experience they're likely to have with your veterinarian which will help them relax during their checkups.

Training checklist for new puppies

  • Clicker
  • Crate
  • Obedience
  • Regularly handle paws
  • Look inside ears and mouth
  • BONUS: Agility training

Valuable Playtime Engagement

Everyone knows puppies love toys, but which toys are best to have on hand? There's a few different types you'll want to ensure your new puppy is fully engaged.

Refillable puzzle toys are excellent for mental stimulation. Puppies should be kept mentally active as much as possible to prevent boredom and misbehavior. Puzzle toys - and the many varieties they come in - will help your pup problem solve and feel a sense of accomplishment each time they figure out how to get a treat.

Dog With Puzzle Toy

Teething toys are important as your puppy's baby teeth will start to be replaced by adult teeth when they're around four months old. Just like with human babies, teething can be painful for puppies. Teething chew toys are generally softer than normal chew toys and may even have a freezing option to help alleviate pain.

As your puppy grows, be mindful of the size of their toys. A small toy for a teething puppy may be a choking hazard as they get bigger.

Of course, playing fetch is another great puppy pastime. Get a throwable fetch toy that's easy to toss but large enough that they won't be at risk of accidentally swallowing it or choking. Playing fetch is a great way to work out those high-energy "zoomies.”

Aside from toys, playtime can also be mini-training sessions. Whether it's "sit" or "stay,” "paw" or "rollover,” or more advanced agility commands - having dedicated playtime with lots of praise and treats will help your puppy be the happiest they can be.

Too many pet parents do not dedicate enough time or attention to their animal companions. Being at work for eight hours, having dinner, watching TV, sleeping for another eight hours... while you go about your day, your dog has only what you provide for stimulation and entertainment. Please be sure to dedicate playtime for your pets each day.

2021 has seen the coronavirus pandemic sweep across the globe, causing the need for social-distancing and isolation. But, there are still many ways to keep your pet happy during COVID-19. You may want to consider dog boarding a few times a week to consistently socialize them with other pups.

Playtime checklist for new puppies

  • Teething/chew toy
  • Refillable puzzle toy
  • Throwable fetch toy
  • BONUS: Object obedience

Grooming & Hygiene

Keeping your puppy clean and groomed will help prevent illness, injury, and messes. A double-sided brush with detangling pins and smoothing bristles will detangle, remove any shedding or debris, and keep your pup's coat smooth.

Purina recommends bathing your puppy once a month, but you should wait until they're at least eight weeks old. When you do bathe them, you'll need special dog shampoo. Dog shampoos are carefully formulated based on their coats’ PH balance. Using a normal shampoo meant for humans can disrupt the "acid mantle,” leaving your dog vulnerable to parasites, viruses, and bacteria.

Dog nail clippers will help keep your puppy's nails from getting too long. Long nails can be at risk of being torn off or caught. Please consult your veterinarian on how to trim your puppy's nails as you must not cut into the quick (the pink part under the nail that connects to their toe). Cutting into the quick will cause extreme pain, so be very careful.

A weekly tooth-brushing session may seem like a weird thing to do for a dog, but it will help prevent dental disease. If you start a weekly session when they're a puppy, they've become accustomed to the experience, and you'll be able to continue into their adulthood. Dental disease can lead to bad breath, bleeding gums, loss of appetite, pain, and expensive dog teeth cleanings.

Grooming checklist for new puppies

  • Double-sided toothbrush (BONUS: Weekly cleanings)
  • Dog shampoo
  • Nail clippers

Cleaning Supplies

Last but not least, you are going to need a few household cleaning supplies for your new puppy.

Make sure to get dog waste bags and carry them with you wherever you go with your puppy. Puppies are prone to accidents. Do not be the person who leaves their dog waste on the sidewalk.

If and when your puppy does have an accident, use a non-toxic cleaner to remove the mess and an enzyme spray to remove the scent and stain. Enzyme cleaners work by breaking down the stain and scent particles at a molecular level and are sometimes the only way to truly eliminate pet urine.

Cleaning supply checklist for new puppies

  • Dog waste bags
  • Non-toxic stain remover
  • Scent-removal spray

Download Your New Puppy Checklist PDF

Bookmark, download, or print this guide and keep it on hand for future reference to ensure you have everything you need for a new puppy. Many items on this list are critically important to the health and happiness of your soon-to-be BFF.

Congratulations, and have a blast when you bring your new puppy home for the first time! Download your PDF for free.

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