Your New Puppy Checklist: The Most Detailed Guide For Pet Parents In 2020

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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.
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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. Ideally, the name/ID tag should also include a backup emergency contact number in case you don't pick up.

Harnesses are recommended 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 and epoxies, etc.). Get rid of any plants that are toxic to dogs. 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 and/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. For example, an extremely toxic substance for dogs is found in sugar-free gum and more.

Create "safe spaces" via crates and baby gates. Use baby gates to keep your puppy from falling down stairs or getting into places they shouldn't be. Use crates to provide their own personal space that they'll learn to rely on when it thunders or when travelling.

Safety checklist

  • Adjustable Collar
  • Leash
  • Harness
  • Name Tag With Phone Number
  • Rabies Tag
  • Puppy Proof Your Home
  • BONUS: Slip Collar for backup connection to leash

Health & Veterinary Priorities

Veterinary appointments will become a routine part of your life as a new puppy parent, and this is important to give your pet a long, healthy, happy life. Pet health insurance, like human health insurance, can be a literal lifesaver when it comes to 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 overtime. 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.

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.

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 a GPS tracking device, it will allow any veterinarian or shelter to identify your dog and contact you if lost. According to AKC Reunite, "Pets with microchips are up to 20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners." They're also required in most cases of international travel.

Appointment scheduling

Schedule a spay/neuter appointment. Most puppies between the ages of six to nine months old are great candidates for spaying or neutering. But, check with your vet because some puppies as young as eight weeks can be neutered if healthy. 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 (and keep it documented in your "puppy folder"). Vaccines have been proven to be the most effective measure in preventing various infectious diseases and most puppies should receive their first set around six or eight weeks old. Vaccines save pet's lives, protect animal communities, prevent human injury, and help avoid costly medical treatments.

A pet parent getting treatment at the vet

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 check ups to prevent serious illness or injury. Your vet might also sell flea and tick prevention.

Health and veterinary checklist

  • Pet Insurance
  • Folder For Paperwork & Vet Records
  • Microchip Implant
  • Schedule Spay/Neuter Appointment
  • Create Vaccination Schedule
  • Deworming & Flea/Tick Prevention
  • Schedule Routine Checkup
  • BONUS: Breed Research

Food and Treat Necessities

When choosing a food and water bowl, there's 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 (even medium) breed sizes. 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.

Bowls whose bases are wider than their openings 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" - interactive maze or 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 prevent malnutrition.

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

  • Food Bowl
  • Water Bowl
  • High-Quality Puppy Food
  • Low-Calorie Treats
  • BONUS: A Mat to place under bowls

A Comforting Welcome

Crates provide a personal space for your puppy that they'll learn to rely on when they feel overwhelmed and/or when travelling. 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 personality.

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

  • Crate
  • Dog Bed
  • Old Toy with the scent of the mother/littermates

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 human's, self-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 us. 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 joy and confidence, while deepening your connection with your pup. Do not 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 ten 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. Overtime, 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

  • Clicker
  • Gate
  • Start Crate Training
  • Schedule Obedience Training
  • Regularly Handle Paws And Look Inside Ears & Mouth to get them accustomed to how your vet will perform checkups.
  • BONUS: Consider 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.

Fillable puzzle toys are excellent for mental stimulation. Puppies should be kept mentally active as much as possible to prevent boredom and misbehavior. Fillable 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.

A dog playing with a fillable 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 people 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. You may also want to consider dog boarding a few times a week to keep them socializing with other pups.

2020 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 and healthy amid COVID-19.

Playtime checklist

  • Fillable Puzzle Toy
  • Teething/Chew Toy
  • Throwable Fetch Toy
  • Practice & Reward Obedience Training

Important Grooming

Keeping your puppy clean and groomed will help prevent illness, injury, and messes. A double-sided brush with detangling pins and smoothing bristles will detantagle, 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 8 weeks old. When you do bathe them, you'll need special dog shampoo. Dog shampoos are carefully formulated based on the PH balance of their coats, and 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 financial burden - so a weekly tooth-brushing session is with the effort.

Grooming checklist

  • Double-Sided Brush with detangling pins and smoothing bristles
  • Dog Shampoo
  • Dog Nail Clippers
  • Weekly Tooth Brushing Session to prevent dental disease

Cleaning Supplies

Last but not least, you are going to need a few key 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/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 supplies checklist

  • Dog Waste Bags
  • Non-Toxic Stain Remover
  • Enzyme Scent-Removal Spray for accidents

Download Your New Puppy Checklist PDF

Download, print, or bookmark this list of essentials for future reference. Many items on this list are critically important to the healthy and happiness of your new puppy. If you do print the PDF, store it in your puppy folder with your veterinary records for safe keeping.

Let's help pet parents do the right thing. Download your PDF for free.
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