You’re beaming with pride. You’ve done your big gender-reveal party. Your oxytocin is off the charts. You’re bringing your baby home! And you can’t wait for all those cuddly nights with your new furry buddy. But are you sure you’re actually prepared? Have you even made a new dog owner checklist, let alone started checking it off?
Seasoned dog owners may have a tough time separating out what belongs to them and what belongs to their dogs. Live with dogs long enough, and sooner or later everything is for them or about them.
But starting off what will no doubt become a life with dogs is no small undertaking.
Sure, there’s all the fun stuff that your friends and family love to buy: squeaky toys, tennis balls, holiday doggie pajamas.
But being a new dog owner is about parenthood! You’ve got safety, health, and training to think about.
And the more you read up on being a responsible dog “parent,” the more you realize you need a new dog owner guide!
No need to fret, however. While some things are important from day one, a lot of things can wait.
And besides, EntirelyPets.com is always just a click away.
So, let’s divide this new dog owner checklist up into pieces that make sense….
What to get for a new puppy or adopted dog
Safety – First Time Dog Owner Checklist
From the get-go, safety always tops the list of what’s important. Whether you’re getting a puppy, fostering a dog, or are adopting a senior dog from a shelter or rescue, you are now the protector of another life.
Here are items you should have and steps you should take to ensure your new dog’s safety:
- Appropriately sized collar
- Sturdy leash (not a retractable leash)
- Properly fitted harness for small or larger dogs
- Seatbelt harness for safe travel in the car (Read here to learn why restraining your dog in a car is important on every ride.)
- Engraved tag with your dog’s name, your phone number and address, and your vet’s phone number
- Microchip, implanted and registered (If you adopt from a shelter or rescue, a microchip will probably already be implanted, and you will have to update the registration.)
- Registration with your city or county, if required
- Securely installed pet gate to block off certain rooms (Can we say, kitchen?)
- Appropriately sized crate to give your new dog a safe place in which to adjust and relax
Dog-proofing your home is a bit different than child-proofing your home for a baby. Operate on the assumption that your dog will seek to get into anything and everything, and work from there.
If you’re on a budget or looking to seamlessly integrate your dog crate into your living space, consider a DIY dog crate cover table that will repurpose furniture you already have at home while providing a safe and secure space for your pup.
Purses with sugar-free chewing gum and mints, medications (especially if flavored), potato chip bags, plastics – these are all things that can be fatal if ingested.
Use electrical cord covers, stow away small items and secure choking hazards such as window blind cords, store household cleaners, chemicals, plastics, and electronics with batteries in closets or cabinets out of reach.
Even the outside of your home needs a safety check. Are the plants in your yard all safe for dogs? Do you have a lock on your gate? Is your fence secure all the way around and into the ground?
When in doubt, get on your hands and knees and think like a dog.
Health – First Time Dog Owner Checklist
Your dog’s health will involve ongoing vigilance on your part, just as a human child’s health would.
You will undoubtedly build your own “pet pharmacy” over time, but some things are good to have on-hand at all times.
Here are some new dog owner essentials and actions to take for your new dog’s health:
- Build a first aid kit.
- Have absorbent, tear-proof potty pads on-hand.
- Research, visit, and interview several veterinary clinics before bringing your dog home to find a veterinarian. Few people will be as important to your and your dog’s lives as a trusted veterinarian.
- Make a new-dog appointment with your vet in advance of bringing home your dog, especially if the vet is backed up on appointments.
- Have your new puppy or rescue dog thoroughly examined. Your vet will probably include initial tests like heartworm antigen, fecal, and a general blood panel as a baseline assessment of your dog’s health.
- Make sure vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Get pet insurance sooner than later.
- Have your veterinarian’s phone number and address listed as an emergency number in your phone. Also have a business card on your refrigerator and/or where other emergency info is posted.
- Research the location and hours of the nearest veterinary emergency hospital before bringing your dog home. Drive there so you can get there easily in the event of an emergency. Enter the contact information into your phone and post in your home along with your vet’s info.
Food and Feeding – New Dog Owner Checklist
What you feed your new dog in the beginning will be dictated largely by what he has been eating prior to coming home with you.
Never make sudden changes in your dog’s diet, even if you have a better menu in mind. Let your vet guide you in the best diet based on your dog’s age, health, and prior living circumstances.
Here are some new dog owner essentials to pick up for feeding time:
- Stainless steel feeding bowls (Get a bunch so you can always use a clean bowl.)
- Slow-feed bowl in case you mistakenly bring home a wolf instead of a dog
- Elevated feeders based on your dog’s height
- Air-tight food storage bins
- Kongs for making yummy, chillaxin’ treats
- Pet Feeder
- Pet Fountain
Grooming – New Dog Owner Checklist
Regardless of whether you plan to groom your dog or take him to a groomer, you should have some basic grooming supplies at home.
If you plan on grooming and washing your pup often, it’s possible that it would be beneficial for you to create a DIY dog grooming station in your home too!
Here are basic grooming supplies every dog owner should have handy:
- Dog shampoo and conditioner
- Absorbent towels
- Nail clippers
- Styptic powder (in case you cut a nail too short and draw blood)
- Rechargeable fur clippers
- FURminator if you have a shedding dog
- Doggie slicker brush
- Toothpaste formulated for dogs
- Soft toothbrush
- Virbac Epi-Otic ear-cleaning solution
- Poop bags
Play – New Dog Owner Checklist
This, of course, is the fun category and the one that will capture your attention and heart whenever you walk into a pet supply store.
From balls to frisbees to stuffies to squeakers, there is no end to fillers for your dog’s toy box.
One word of caution about toys, though. Not all toys are made equally. And not all dogs play equally.
Better to have a handful of toys made from sturdy materials than a binful of cheaply made, easily disemboweled toys. Squeakers can be choking hazards, and stuffing can cause intestinal blockage.
Always monitor your dog when he plays with toys.
Guide for New Dog Owners
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Just take your time and enjoy the process, we’re so glad that you are trying to provide the best environment for your new addition to the family!
In our opinion:
Having a new dog owner checklist is really about helping you to think from your dog’s perspective. Over time you will get to know your new puppy or rescue dog and what they need or love.
In our experience:
Safety and health are priority. Focus on making your home safe for your puppy or new adopted dog (and keeping your home safe from those sharp puppy teeth!). Of course, you will want to have the proper food (based on your puppy or dog’s age, size, etc.), but don’t splurge on the super-size bag of dog food, because your new pup might not like it.
Why we chose what we chose:
Our new dog owner checklists are made up of the essentials. We always advise starting out with the essentials (especially essentials for health and safety) because you can build on your list (and buy more toys!) as you begin to understand your new puppy or dog’s personality.
This is a new way of life you’re embarking on. And, once you fall into those big puppy-dog eyes, you might not remember that the rest of the world exists.