Puppy Training Shopping List

You can’t do a good job without the proper tools, so the first thing you will need to do is go shopping for a few things. This shopping list covers the puppy essentials as well as some extras. Some are critical and need to be purchased right away, others can be purchased later as your training progresses and some may or may not be needed, depending on your particular situation. All items are listed with a brief description as sort of a “quick reference guide” and more details will be given throughout the book as needed. I would suggest making a short list of the urgent ones and get yourself to the pet store right away. 

Food and Treats: Obviously your puppy needs to eat so you will need to buy some form of puppy food. Most people start with whatever the puppy was being fed by the breeder or foster family. Some will stick with that food and others will transition to a new diet. Treats are optional but I will be recommending the use of treats as part of a balanced training program. Some puppies will be motivated by using their regular dog food as a training reward but most do better with something extra tasty. 

Food and Water Bowls: You will need at least two bowls, one for food and one for water. You probably already have some bowls around the house that you can use but most people like to get special bowls for their puppy. I would recommend something that won’t break or tip over easily. I use stainless steel dog bowls for my dogs.

There are also various types of slow feeders for puppies that eat too fast.

Treat Pouch: A treat pouch (treat bag, treat tote, bait bag) is a handy little item that clips on your belt or waistband to make for easy and efficient delivery of treats while keeping your hands free and pockets clean. They have a drawstring so the treats don’t fall out when you’re moving around. Some have magnetic or spring-loaded flaps for easy opening and closing. Some even have multiple compartments for separating the different kinds of treats. I like the simple drawstring type, such as the Treat Tote by Canine Hardware, but there are many variations on the market to choose from. 

Toys and Chews: Puppies need approved items to chew on and play with. There are tons of dog toys on the market today. I would recommend getting a wide variety to see what your puppy prefers. Young puppies usually prefer soft toys and get into the harder ones as they age but you need to experiment a bit. They also get bored easily, so variety is always good. You will also need some long lasting, edible chew items such as bones, bully sticks or toys that can be stuffed with food such as a Kong. I use raw beef bones but this is controversial so you may want to talk to your vet first.

Dog Bed: Your puppy needs something comfy to lie down and sleep on so you will probably need at least a couple dog beds. One for inside, one for outside, maybe one upstairs and one downstairs, it all depends on your situation. There are many varieties to choose from, some are thin, almost like a throw rug, others are very plush and fancy. They also make dog cots which are kind of cool because they don’t touch the ground and are less tempting for puppies to chew on. The stuffed ones often become giant chew toys so I wouldn’t buy anything too expensive right away. 

Baby Gates: Baby gates are great for blocking your puppy’s ability to go in or out of areas of your home that do not have doors. The kitchen, hallway or staircase are common areas that may need baby gates. There are a variety of models but many do not require any screws for mounting so you can take them down at any time with no damage to your walls. 

Leashes and Tethers: There are many variations of leashes on the market. I will be recommending four different types: 

  1. Standard Six-Foot Leash – Start with a cheap leash because puppies tend to chew them up. Nothing fancy here, no extra handles, no bungee materials, just a plain old regular leash…but it does need to be six feet long. You can invest in a nice leather leash or something blingy and fashionable but I’d hold off until you get past the chewing phase. 
  2. Retractable Leash – This is a long leash that’s on a spring-loaded coil that extends as the puppy moves away from you, retracts as she comes closer and has a brake button to control the coil. I like the Flexi brand but there are other options out there. The main thing is to get one that is over 20 feet long and does not lock automatically when you push the brake button. If it locks every time you push the button do not buy it. 
  3. 50-foot long line – Nothing fancy here, just a really long leash. Yes, it must be 50 feet long. These come in nylon or cotton. I prefer the feel of cotton in my hands but nylon is better if it’s going to get wet. 
  4. Chain or Metal Cable – Tethering your pup to something, such as a table leg, is super helpful in teaching them to stay put and settle down. You may be able to get by with a cheap leash but if you have a leash chewer you will need a chain or cable to tether your pup with. If your local pet store doesn’t have this, try the hardware store. IMPORTANT NOTE: Never leave your puppy tied out while unattended, this is a choking hazard.  

Collars and Harnesses: A leash can be attached to your puppy by either a collar around the neck or a harness around the body. I would recommend getting both. There are many “training collars” and “no pull” harnesses on the market designed to inhibit the dog’s ability to pull and give leverage to the handler but that comes later. Upon introduction we need to make being on leash as comfortable as we can. For that reason, we start with a regular collar (looks like a belt) and a regular harness (leash clips on the back). The harness is to avoid choking hazards and is typically less stressful or scary for a new pup. The regular collar is to hold your puppy’s ID tags and to gently introduce the concept of leash pressure around the neck. (Leash training techniques will be covered in more detail later.) 

Martingale Collar: The only training collar I would recommend for a young puppy is a limited slip collar, often referred to as a Martingale collar. It looks very much like a regular collar but has a small loop of chain that causes the collar to tighten a little bit. The loop may also be made of fabric but I personally prefer the chain. The two benefits of this are 1) it won’t slip over the pup’s head if she tries to escape and 2) it distributes the pressure towards the muscles on the side of the neck, which reduces the amount of pressure on the puppy’s throat. 

Training Collars: As your training progresses, and your puppy grows, you may realize that you need a tool to give you more leverage such as a choke chain, prong collar, front clip harness or head harness. Please do not try any of these until first training properly with the martingale collar and regular harness. Using a more aversive tool with an inexperienced puppy is not the answer. Get your technique down and give your pup a chance to learn first, then, as the pup moves into adolescence you can consider more powerful tools as needed. Fair enough? 

ID Tags: You should always have ID tags on your puppy’s collar, just in case she was to get out of the house or yard and wander off. Yes, even if she has a microchip. Not everyone will have the time or wherewithal to take a lost puppy to a vet or police department to get them scanned for a chip. That takes time and effort, plus the puppy can get away from them during the process. Now the pup could be lost far from home when the whole thing may have started only one block from home. With tags and cell phones it would have been as easy as, “Hello, I have your puppy. Can you come get her?” Or they might just bring the puppy back to your house if they know where it is. Simple, right? 

Warning: There is some controversy over this due to the fact that collars can be a choking hazard if they were to get hung up on something. This is a legitimate concern but, in my experience, dog’s getting hung up by their collar is not nearly as common as dogs getting lost or hit by cars. A collar also gives a person something to hold onto the dog with while they try to call you. An alternative would be to keep ID tags on a harness that the dog would wear all day instead of a collar. 

Exercise Pens: An exercise pen (ex-pen) is a small fence-like enclosure. Most are only a few feet in diameter which allows just enough room for puppies to move around and play with their toys but not enough to run around and go nuts. The concept is basically the same as a playpen for a small child. Most are made of metal or plastic, come in various heights and fold up easily for storage. I’ve also seen some that are made of fabric and fully self-contained with a bottom, a front door and a roof. It’s kind of like a dog tent, very cool I must say. 

Plastic Tarp/Non-Absorbent Floor Covering: When using an ex-pen or tether indoors, you will want to purchase something non-absorbent, leak proof and easy to clean in order to protect your floors. The self-contained ex-pens mentioned earlier already have a non-absorbent bottom but, with regular ex-pens, a plastic painter’s tarp is cheap and should do the trick. If leaving the pup unsupervised, however, you will need something more durable that the puppy won’t chew up such as a piece of linoleum or a horse stall pad. 

Important Note: The floor covering should not, I repeat, not be something that your puppy is encouraged or casually allowed to go potty on. In other words, it is not a potty pad, the floor covering should be treated as if it is the actual floor. 

Potty Pads/Indoor Potty System: These are only recommended for situations that require the pup to eliminate indoors. If at all possible, I would avoid anything that encourages the pup to eliminate indoors. That said, if your pup must eliminate indoors, you will need to create a potty area of some sort. The targeted area needs to be lined with something absorbent such as newspaper, potty pads, whelping pads or fake grass. There are some cool products on the market that have fake grass with a drip tray underneath. Some people will build a low sided box, like a sand box for kids, and fill it with outdoor materials such as sod or gravel. Whatever option you choose, always be sure that the floor underneath is protected. 

Crate: A crate (also called a carrier or kennel) is sort of like a dog house with a door that can be closed and locked. They are usually made of plastic or metal but I have also seen fabric versions. For the higher budget, there are super heavy-duty crates and fancy ones that look like a piece of furniture. While potty training, the crate should be fairly small, just big enough for your pup to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. Increase the size as the pup grows. Once you are confident she won’t potty in there, the crate can be as big as you want. 

Dog Run or Outdoor Kennel: A dog run or outdoor kennel is much larger than a crate and is typically made of chain link or welded metal fencing material but I’ve seen plenty of homemade versions. They vary in size and are most often used in the yard or garage. I have seen them used indoors but those were special circumstances. Most people don’t have the space for an indoor dog run or simply don’t want one in their home. It’s hard to find one that matches the furniture!  

Cleaning Supplies: Your puppy is going to make a mess, that’s pretty much guaranteed. For some messes, such as saliva, mud or vomit, regular household cleaning supplies may do the trick. For elimination messes, you will need to purchase an enzyme cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle. These are designed to thoroughly breakdown and eliminate the scent left behind by urine and feces to the point that a dog can’t smell it. If they smell it, they will probably do it again. 

Grooming Supplies: Some breeds require more grooming than others and you may opt to hire a professional. However, for the do-it-yourselfer, you will at least need a dog shampoo. Don’t use regular shampoo from your shower, it’s not good for dogs. You will also want a dog brush. There are different brushes for different types of fur. I’m sure your groomer or the staff at the pet store will be happy to help you make the right choice. The other basic grooming need is nail trimming. This can be done with special clippers made for dogs or an electric Dremel. Some people clip to length and then use the Dremel to smooth the edges. 

Chewing Deterrents: There are a variety of nasty tasting products on the market, such as Bitter Apple, to keep your pup from chewing on unapproved items. The trick with these is that the nastiness only lasts a matter of hours. Hence, you need to remember to re-spray the item consistently until your pup is convinced she should stick to chewing only approved chew toys. 

Painters Tape: If you are going to use potty pads of some sort it can be beneficial to tape them down so the pup won’t be tempted to play with them. To avoid damaging your flooring you need to use the correct tape. Any paint store or hardware store can help you get the right tape for your floor. 

Poop Bags: Never leave home without a roll of poop bags in your purse or pocket. When you take your pup out for a walk, there’s a good chance she will poop. The neighborly thing to do is to always pick it up. 

Seatbelt/Safety Harness: At some point you will need to take your puppy in the car with you. Ideally, you will be taking your puppy with you a lot for the sake of socialization and fulfillment. You probably don’t want her climbing all over the place or getting tossed around in an emergency stop or fender bender. So, for safety, as well as sanity, you may want to purchase a safety harness for dogs. A crate in the car is also a possibility and it should also be strapped down so it doesn’t slide around. For travel, plastic crates are better than wire crates.

and more….

Of course there are tons of products on the market that I have failed to mention. It could be that I left something out by accident (aka I forgot) or because I don’t recommend it or, honestly, I may not even be aware of it. It is hard to keep up with all the stuff that’s available today but I think the shopping list provided will be more than enough to get you started on the right track. 

Chad Culp – Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine. 

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