It’s no secret that getting a puppy is the absolute best, while also being potentially the most challenging experience in someone’s adult life. Can you tell I’m not a parent yet?
Growing up, we always had dogs, but what I guess I didn’t realize is that I always had mom and dad to really do the hard things. Training them not to go potty inside, buying all of the food, toys, crates, and so on, and honestly, as a kid, that time period flew by in my head!
Now, several weeks after picking up our nine week old golden retriever, we are very much still in the puppy phase and basically don’t think we are leaving anytime soon! We keep our eyes on her at all times (writing this at 4.5 months) but we can tell things are starting to progress.
How we raised our Golden Retriever puppy
To paint the picture, we picked up our little 9.4lb ball of fluff, Coconut, on a cold December day. Prior to picking her up, Tom (my fiance) had never had a dog before and is the type of guy who really wants to educate himself. Tom bought a book that another friend who had a Golden Retriever had recommended.
This book proved to be our lifeline, and like I said, I grew up with dogs (Golden’s to be specific!) but still, there were so many things I needed to learn, to refresh my memory on, and just to re-teach myself. I highly recommend finding a book specific to your dogs breed, and honestly if not, get this Golden Retriever book. While it is specific to that breed, there are SO many basic tips and tricks for all dogs.
So we read the book, bought all of the things that we thought we would need (we went overboard), and then picked up our sweet girl. After we brought her home, we slowly realized what we actually were going to use and what we weren’t. So that’s where I come into play to share the absolute BEST and most needed things for your dog.
I’ve broken it down into several categories so that you can get a feel for how/when to use each item. I’ve also provided a brief description on the importance or just why we decided it’s a must have!
Also, I’ll talk more about insurance at the end.
Must have list for new puppies
Crating your puppy
Crate – obviously, you will need a crate. We have crate trained Coconut so that she sleeps in there at night, and the door is open during the day if she ever wants to go in (rarely). I highly recommend doing research on crate training, but one thing that we did and still do is feed her in the crate. All of her meals happen right where she sleeps, so that she will associate it as a happy place.
Also, start small. Your crate should come with a divider. The dog should not be able to roam freely in the crate because then it will just potty on one side and come back and sleep on the other. We started with half the size, and slowly moved the divider back as she grew.
Another thing for the crate. Put a blanket all around the crate so that it creates a dark space for your dog. Our entire crate (besides the front door) is covered.
Inside our crate, we have a basic crate sized bed. Nothing too fluffy, but perfect enough for the inside for it to be comfy and warm for them.
Bed – all dogs need a bed! We got our original one from Costco, but any bed with side ledges will do so that they can feel comforted. Coconut likes to burrow her toys in the side, it’s pretty cute.
Play Pen – get a play pen for SURE! This has been an absolute game changer for us. We keep Coco in the play pen whenever we are working out or need to go upstairs and don’t want to crate her. We put a small bed in there that she can lay on and chill, we also throw some toys in there so she can play while we aren’t giving her attention.
The playpen has also been good for when she is really hyped up and needs a moment to chill. Or for when I’m cooking and I can’t watch her. She never cries or anything, which I think we are really lucky about, but the play pen has been our saving grace!
Food related products for puppies
Kongs – the best thing in the world to get some peace and quiet 🙂 We are now the proud owners of 6 kongs, and once a week, I make a big batch of yogurt, pumpkin, and peanut butter all mixed together and stuff the kongs full. I will add in half the yogurt mixture, then add kibble, then top it off with more yogurt mixture. We then freeze them. Each frozen kong will take Coconut anywhere from 20-30 minutes to eat and she loves them!
You can also just stuff them with treats, or just peanut butter, or really any mixture of anything. I highly suggest freezing them, though.
Lickimats – same idea as the Kong, but this time you spread it out onto a mat that has a bunch of grooves and edges, so when you put the yogurt, pumpkin, and peanut butter mixture into it and freeze it, it takes them a lot longer to get out of each crevice!! 30 minutes of silence – thank you!
Bowls – these bowls work great. They are a little on the small side, but perfect for puppies. Coconut still uses them (for water…) We also place them on top of these cute bone shaped waterproof mat for spillage purposes.
Slow Feeding Bowl – we had to transition Coconut to the slow feeding bowl because we would put her food down and literally 25 seconds later it was gone. I was literally SHOCKED the first time that happened and was like there is no way that is good for her… enter this wonderful bowl. It makes it way more difficult for them to actually get to the food.
It now takes her anywhere from 8-12 minutes to eat and has really helped her slow down.
Leash – A basic leash, we’ve tried a bunch of other leashes as well but we keep going back to this one from Amazon. It’s sturdy, has amazing reviews, and is awesome. Another one we like is from Big Ben Leash Co. They are a small business local to Philly but they ship nationwide. We adore this leash, too.
Collar – A basic, highly reviewed collar.
Harness – another basic one, but it’s great. We love it and will keep buying until she grows out of the largest size….which btw, run really small. She is currently in a Large and only 25 lbs.
Bully Sticks / Bully Stick Holder – another food/treat we cannot live without are bully sticks. Our vet is totally fine with giving them to her, as long as they are made in the USA and with good ingredients. I linked the ones Coconut loves. PLEASE also buy a bully stick holder. Coconut accidentally swallowed an entire one because I thought she would be fine holding it and eating it. I was wrong. It was horrible and a nightmare and the bully stick holder literally holds it into place without any worry.
Treats – we are currently giving Coconut training treats from Life’s Abundance. But we also have been gifted many little treats that we give her. We aren’t picky.
Carrot Toy – my friend got us this toy. It’s similar to a kong in that it can hold stuff. We shove Kong Ziggie’s in there and it also keeps her entertained for a long time.
Food Storage Container – this one stays perfectly under our cabinet and we love it! It’s airtight so the food stays fresh as well. We have this scoop to go with it. The scoop is exactly one cup which is perfect.
Training your puppy
Bells – we ‘Bell Trained’ Coconut. It’s a very easy thing to do, although can be annoying. Every single time she went to the bathroom from the MINUTE we brought her home we would be sure to hit the bells on our door with either her nose or her paw. Once she peed, rewarded her like CRAZY! “GOOD GIRL COCONUT (and treat given right away)” She was never going to go outside unless she hit the bell (instilling this practice in her). While she still had accidents for about 3-4 weeks, she started to ring the bell on her own when she needed to go out and has not had many accidents since. Bell training is the best. She now just goes and rings the bell whenever she needs to go potty! …and sometimes just to play.
A note on potty pads. We bought 50 of them and Coconut never once peed on them. Instead she just chewed them up. They didn’t work for us.
Gates – self-explanatory, but put these at the bottom of our steps. They are great and aren’t a huge eye sore.
Bitter Apple Spray – sounds yummy, right? we bought a bottle of this and have sprayed it on every thing we do not want Coco to chew. Think coffee table, plant stands, crate, door knobs, cabinets, table legs… etc. It doesn’t ruin them at all and she HATES the taste of it. It seriously stopped all chewing in our house. An absolute MUST.
Other puppy essentials
Toys – we got a variety of toys. I bought some of the best reviewed ones on amazon and here are my thoughts. Tennis balls are amazing, but SQUEAKY tennis balls are even better. Rope toys are awesome. Coconut’s favorite toy has been a milk carton with cookies inside and a little ‘home’ with hedgehogs. They squeak and she loves it. Plus she can hold them in her mouth.
For toys, less is more. Find out what your puppy really likes to play with before buying a million different ones.
Poop Bags – you need em. lots of em. multiple time a day….
Poop Bag Holder – also get a poop bag holder for your leash. I learned this quickly that sometimes your dog will poop twice, LOL. I went home and bought one of these right away and it’s been the best.
Poop Bucket – we literally didn’t know what to do with the poop from our backyard once it was wrapped up, until I remembered that my mom got a really cute looking poop pail. It’s perfect for holding dog poop!!
Turf Mat – we live in the city, so thought she might want a turf mat to pee on. However she didn’t really have that much life to live before coming here, so grass is still kind of foreign to her. She is just fine peeing on the concrete, but once and a while will go on the mat.
Shampoo – you will need shampoo to give your pup a bath! We use this one and love it.
Nail Clippers – we bought these clippers for times in between vet visits when we need to trim them. This one has a safe guard which I LOVE because you can’t cut too much by mistake.
Deer Antlers – perfect for teething. Coco loves when we hold one side. Check with your vet before using, they are better for adult teeth.
Lint Rollers – Again, Coconut sheds a lot and lint rollers are needed.
Toy Holder – this cute holder is perfect to hold all of her toys. We do a quick nightly clean up and throw them in!
Insurance for puppies
We knew right away after talking to several of our friends who are Veterinarians that we wanted to get pet insurance. Unfortunately, things happen when they are puppies, even if you think your puppy is invincible. They will want to eat everything, put everything in their mouth, and so on.
And boy are we so happy we did. Coconut had us at the vet 5 times within the 9 weeks we have had her. Emergency trips, planned visits, extra vaccinations…just get insurance. It’s not worth it to worry.
We did research on all the big name insurance companies and ultimately ended up getting Lemonade insurance. We bought the plan with the most coverage – diagnostics, medications, accidents, illnesses, and procedures. Also covers preventative care and annual wellness exam. It has been an absolute blessing and only costs us about $35 a month, with add ons (we added on $18 for extra vaccines, etc).
As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the comments! I’m not a dog expert, but I’ve had dogs for 20 years of my life, so happy to help in any way that I can.
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