everything need you to survive adopting (and raising) a puppy

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
I want to start by saying that I absolutely love our dog. If at any time in this post I sound like I don't love our dog... well, just know that he is currently in this phase where he bites your hands while you walk and jumps up on your butt to try and knock you over when you're going down the stairs and he barks at everything, especially if his face is in your face, and he also just smells really bad right now. Really, really bad.

Otherwise, he's great, and I am firmly in the "Everyone needs a dog" camp. Because I did an obsessive amount of research before we brought home our Pomeranian-helldog mix, I wanted to share my advice with anyone who is thinking about adding a floof to their house.


First: I'm assuming that if you're thinking about getting a puppy, you're ready to get a puppy. If you just think puppies are cute and you'd like one to take pictures of... please, Jesus, don't get a puppy. You're not ready yet. You want to make sure that you've thought about the time and financial commitment to getting a dog.

Ask yourself a few questions:

• How much time can I dedicate to raising it? Am I gone for long periods of time? Do I have the patience or the time right now to be constantly watching my puppy? Am I OK with leaving the puppy in a kennel if I have to be gone for hours?
• Can I afford the necessary supplies, as well as regular vet visits (because as a puppy, you'll be going several times) and the costs of getting your puppy neutered or spayed?
• Do I have to pay a pet fee at my apartment? Most have fees and also pet rent.
• Can I afford puppy training? What about boarding or petsitting if I go on a trip?

Patrick and I adopted Theo when I was about to start traveling every other week, but Patrick was home more often than not, working from the apartment. It luckily worked out for us, although it was exhausting for Patrick when I was gone. In hindsight, we should've waited until my travel schedule calmed down – or maybe not brought him home two days before my first week-long West Coast trip.

Do not take adopting a dog lightly. I've learned that from having Theo and from previous puppy experiences – it is not easy, and you want to be ready.

This post does include affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase, I might make a little bit of money.


MONEY. I mean, sorry to be dramatic, but if you don't have the flexibility in your budget to afford the things your dog will need, then you should stop reading and walk away! You don't need to be a millionaire, but the things a dog needs are not cheap, and denying them the things they need will cost more in the long run.

A KENNEL AND/OR PLAYPEN AND/OR DOG GATES. We used Amazon for all of these supplies, which was wise, to say the least. Here's the kennel, the playpen and similar dog gates we purchased. Puppies want to go everywhere but because they, you know, pee on anything and everything, you can't let them have free rein. The kennel is crucial for kennel training – which I wholeheartedly support – and traveling, and Theo voluntarily leaves bed with us to sleep in his kennel every night. The playpen and the dog gates aren't necessities, but I definitely don't think we could've survived without one or both. I recommend buying the kennel like ours above with an adjustable size – you don't want a puppy to be too small for its kennel, because they'll pee in the corner without a second thought. 

FOOD. Good quality puppy food is crucial – and no, what they sell at Walmart is NOT good quality. And just because they sell it at Petco doesn't mean it's safe or healthy, either. Do your research (I use dogfoodadvisor.com) and choose a brand that has 4+ stars. Theo started with Natural Balance Original Ultra puppy food and we've since moved him to Blue Basics puppy food because his stomach is so sensitive.

A BED OR BLANKETS FOR HIS KENNEL. You don't have to buy a fancy bed right away – in fact, I don't recommend it, because puppies poop a lot – but definitely have blankets or towels to make the kennel a comfortable place. Make sure everything is washable. I bought an affordable dog bed that Theo really just loves to destroy, so he sleeps on towels, old t-shirts and a superbly fuzzy blanket from Walmart. Everything can be tossed in the washing machine whenever, and we always have backup towels if we need them.

A HARNESS, COLLAR + LEASH. I can't recommend the Lupine brand enough. Here's a collar and a leash, and we like Puppia for harnesses. Lupine will replace any product if your dog destroys it, and they will probably try to, at least a dozen times. Theo is six months old and still loves to try to chew through his leash. And we prefer the soft harnesses instead of the strappy ones because Theo could still chew on the straps. 

FOOD + WATER BOWLS. Go ahead and get stainless steel bowls, instead of the cute ceramic ones that you found at HomeGoods. The steel stays cleaner and will foster less gross bacteria than glass or ceramic, even though it's way less cute. I also bought Theo a puzzle feeder that we still use today, because Mr. Gobbles eats far too fast for his own good. Eating fast is good for no dog, especially bigger breeds, and the puzzle feeder keeps Theo occupied for 10-15 minutes while I get my own breakfast or lunch together. 


TOYS. Just skip the fancy "indestructible" toys and don't even bother with the cute toys at Petco or Petsmart. Go to TJ Maxx, Marshall's or HomeGoods and buy out their toy section, or shop for toys on Amazon. They often have great deals on goDog toys that hold up surprisingly well. Theo has a few that only have to be patched up every couple of weeks. I recommend having a few kinds of toys when you first bring your pup home: 1) plush toys. 2) toys they can pull or tug. 3) toys you can play fetch with. 4) hard chew toys that safely be left in their kennel. (I also recommend the Nylabones and Benebones for kennel toys.)

THINGS TO CHEW ON (NOT JUST NYLABONES.)  Your dog may have a sensitive stomach, so be careful, but we use antlers, Merrick marrow bones and Himalayan chews for Theo. Antlers are expensive, but they last forever, although some puppies are far more interested in antlers when they're younger and will chew on anything.

TREATS. Puppies can be really sensitive to anything you give them, so I recommend starting with one kind and seeing how they react to them. It's OK if they get a biscuit at the bank or something here or there, but you want a really small treat or treats you can break up. We like these Wellness puppy bites and Merrick Power Bites, and my parents swear by Natural Balance dog food rolls for Daisy. (Which is great if your pup has a very sensitive tum, because you can feed them their dog food as a treat.)


CLEANING PRODUCTS FOR THE FLOOR. I swear by Nature's Miracle Lavender Stain and Odor Remover You can get it scented or unscented, and it is exactly what you need for every puppy accident, I swear. 

MORE PAPER TOWELS THAN YOU'VE EVER USED IN YOUR LIFE. Seriously. We went through a roll a day with Theo for a while.

PUPPY PEE PADS. Beware: Don't buy these at Petco or Petsmart, and do not use them exclusively in place of taking your puppy outside. Just use them as a backup, or else you will have to re-potty train your dog when they decide that they can pee anywhere in the house, like Theo did. Amazon Basics work just fine and are super affordable.

I made a terrible mistake and bought cheap ones when we ran out of our eco-friendly, lavender-scented poop bags. (No shame here.) Pat teased me when I ordered the scented ones but when I got the unscented, very difficult to use cheap ones... well, he was happy to get the lavender-scented ones back. Buy the good ones (they're still affordable on Amazon in comparison with the cheap ones at the pet stores) and suck it up. And please clean up after your dog, you gross human! 


PUPPY TRAINING. We went to the Petco closest to our house and met the trainer there. It was love at first sight both for Theo and for me and Patrick. The trainer we worked with for Theo's first puppy classes (he graduated from Puppy 1 and Puppy 2) loved our dog and was really fun to work with, not to mention invaluable in helping us work on specific behaviors of Theo's that we wanted to encourage or get rid of. Not every trainer at the stores will be like that, and I don't recommend going to the busiest pet store in your area; find one of the smaller stores with less foot traffic. There are tons of trainers that work outside of the pet stores, too, but you'll pay a little more for those. We would've happily done that if we hadn't met our trainer.

Trust me. Just buy it. Maybe most puppies don't have the absolutely toxic liquid poops that Theo produced on an hourly basis for most of his first six months on earth... but puppies eat shit that they shouldn't, and they will get diarrhea. Have this on hand. You can also give a puppy Pepto or Pepcid but we like this and keep it all the time.  

A HAMMOCK FOR THE CAR. I bought this to protect Pat's new leather seats in the backseat of his car. It wasn't very much – most varieties are under $20 – and Theo loves riding in the car because of it. He isn't a huge fan of my car as much because mine doesn't have his hammock! He curls up against one side, the side that faces the air vents, and takes a nap through almost all of our rides.

CAR SEAT BELTS. We started with these adjustable seat belts that latch onto Theo's harness and switched to this anti-chew seat belt once he gnawed through one of the others when we were driving back from Asheville. I don't like how it latches on as much as the ones above (they clip into the buckle like a normal seatbelt, whereas this one clips to the belt itself so there's more movement) but it still does the trick. The hammock above also protects Theo if we have to break.


What did I miss? If you're a dog owner, what were your must-haves?


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