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14 Essential Puppy Products You Simply Must Have

Before you add that furry new family member you didn't know you needed, read this checklist of must-have items.

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Puppy CrateVia

A Sturdy Crate


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Investing in a crate the right size for your puppy is one of the smartest moves you can make. That’s because a crate meets the emotional and physical needs of a young puppy, says Dawn Hoover, DVM, who practices veterinary medicine through Veterinary Relief Services. “This space can give the puppy a safe haven, and also comes in handy when potty training,” she says. “Find one large enough for them to turn around and lay down in, but no larger.” Adds Lauren Robinson, DVM, with Alabama-based Grayson Valley Pet Clinic: “Dogs don’t like to lay in their urine or feces and will often hold it. Make it too big for them, and you risk the puppy going to the back to do their business.”

Not sure what size puppy you’re about to bring home? Look for a crate with dividers so you can adjust the interior spacing to accommodate the size of your growing dog. This folding metal dog crate from MidWest Homes for Pets comes in seven sizes, each with dividers, making them ideal for tiny breeds like Chihuahuas all the way up to larger-sized dogs like Labrador Retrievers. Just make sure you don’t make these puppy training mistakes you’ll regret later.

Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.

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Chew Toys


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To help your pup through its teething stage, Robinson recommends rope toys, stuffed toys, and Nylabones like this puppy starter pack. However, Robinson advises not to turn your back for too long. “Always observe your puppy to be sure it isn’t breaking off pieces of toys and eating them,” she says. Make sure you’re protecting your dog from these 11 common household items that can harm pets.

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Puppy Play PenVia



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A playpen like this metal one from New World Pet Products can be useful, especially if you lack a yard, or you’re adopting your pup in the winter when it’s too cold to go outside for long periods. On the other hand, it’s also sure to see a lot of use if you have a large yard and want to keep your pup from wandering off. “This is one of those nice items to have around because it lets you create a larger area for puppies to play safely in — and that’s important because you can’t watch them constantly,” Robinson says. Training a new puppy? Here’s your essential checklist.

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Flirt PoleVia

Flirt Pole

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Want to ensure you have a happy, well-adjusted puppy? One of the most important things you can do is to spend quality time playing with and walking them, says Hoover. Investing in toys that foster interactive playtime, like this Outward Hound Tail Teaser Dog Flirt Pole, can be great to keep around. It can also help your puppy burn through all that pent-up energy. Here are 8 genius ways to pick up dog poop.

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Dog foodVia

High-Quality Dog Food


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This is one of the biggest ongoing expenses of dog ownership. Most vets agree you don’t have to spend a fortune on dog food, but you should pay attention to the ingredients. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. “I look for a good quality protein as the first ingredient along with healthy grains and an AAFCO label,” Robinson says. This Victor High Protein dog food delivers on all three. Don’t forget a dog food storage container to go with it. Here’s the lowdown on what it really costs to own a dog — and tangible ways to save a little kibble.

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Puppy Training PadsVia

Puppy Training Pads


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In those first few weeks, some pet owners may be tempted to ease into the potty training routine by using puppy pads. Robinson says that while these are fine, she cautions against using them for too long; this can make it difficult to train your pup to go outside. These American Kennel Club’s Training Pads can be helpful as you transition to day-to-day life with your new pup. We’ll tell you why your dog follows you into the bathroom and more about the strange behavior of man’s best friend.

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Flea and tick killerVia

Flea and Tick Prevention


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Another considerable but vital expense of pet ownership is preventative flea and tick treatments. Hoover suggests talking to your vet as some areas of the country don’t require year-round prevention. She recommends looking for vet-approved brands like Advantix. Combination formulas like this K9 Advantix II protect against fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Check out these 29 tips to keep your dog safe and healthy this summer.

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Dog TreatsVia

Healthy Teats


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Hoover recommends Hill’s Science Diet Training Treats because they’re backed by veterinary research and are lean and lower in fat, so you’re not adding unnecessary calories or junk food to your puppy’s diet. Robinson adds that pet owners should also choose U.S.-made products (Hill’s fits the bill). “There have been issues in the past with toxicity in dog chews and treats from other countries,” she says. Check out the essentials for puppy proofing your home.

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Dog CollarVia



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Until you have trained your new puppy to walk alongside you, a head collar can help keep you both happy. Hoover recommends the PetSafe Gentle Leader Collar because it helps to prevent pulling while also protecting the dog’s neck. (If you are considering a brachycephalic or squishy-faced breed like a French bulldog, Hoover advises investing in a harness.) “You can’t teach manners soon enough,” Hoover says. “It’s especially important with large breed dogs, as a puppy with no manners can quickly become a 90-pound menace.” Don’t miss the etiquette rules every dog owner needs to memorize.

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Dog LeashVia



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Hoover recommends a flat nylon leash to start. “Nylons are washable and they come in a lot of colors,” she says, “making it easy for owners who like to coordinate their pet’s collars for the season.” She adds the Lupine brand of leashes is known to perform well and is backed by a lifetime guarantee even if chewed. These are the BEST dog breeds for kids.

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Dog bed Via

Dog Bed


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To give your puppy his or her special place to sleep (not your bed or the sofa), invest in a pet bed made from washable, breathable fabric. Hoover recommends a sturdy nylon material or memory foam, as long as the bed includes a waterproof cover. This Friends Forever Memory Foam bed has all that, and it’s chew-proof. Make sure you know the 15 signs your dog is secretly mad at you.

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Food and water bowlVia

Food and Water Bowls


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It can be tempting to spring for the cute bowls with bright colors and prints. But Hoover cautions against plastic bowls, which are porous and can harbor bacteria. Instead, opt for a stainless-steel set like this pair of dishwasher safe dog bowls from Basis Pet. And here are 19 cleaning tips all pet owners should know.

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Dog BrushVia

Grooming Tool

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In the ongoing battle between your vacuum cleaner and stray dog hair, the Furminator is well worth the investment. “They really get all the loose hair out of the puppy’s coat,” Hoover says. There is another advantage to buying and regularly using grooming tools like the Furminator brush, she adds. “It’s important for people to start brushing their puppies early so they’re used to being brushed, having their feet handled, and their faces wiped so they are not a nightmare when they get to the vet,” she says. These are the puppy training mistakes you’ll regret making later.

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Dog TagsVia

ID Tags


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For identification easily read and unlikely to be lost, Hoover recommends these personalized collars from GoTags, which include the puppy’s name and owner’s phone number embroidered into the fabric. However, you should also have your pet microchipped. “Collars can be lost or removed, so a microchip implanted by your veterinarian is the best way to ensure lost babies come home,” she says. Next, read up on these ways to keep your dog comfortable while they’re home alone.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Rebecca C. Walden
Rebecca Walden is a freelance writer based in Texas by way of Birmingham.By day, she's a marketing and public relations pro working in higher ed. By night (and most weekends), she serves as a writer and editor for a variety of clients throughout the U.S. In those rare moments when she's not writing, you'll find her making memories with her three most favorite human beings on earth.