“What do I need to get?” asks my sister-in-law, pen poised. She will soon be adding a puppy – one beautiful Hungarian Viszla – to her family. So, I thought I’d revisit Teddy’s Puppy List (Teddy’s Tales: Puppy Prep) and reconsider, with careful hindsight, pressing questions such as: Does a tiny puppy really need six chew toys? (Probably not). Do you have to spend a small fortune on a dog trainer? (If, like me, you have never owned a dog before then, yes – and that might be the best dog advice you’ll ever get.) Will you ever get used to the smell of stinky dog food? (I am a vegetarian – my answer is no.)
First: dog books. I would still recommend Dr Ian Dunbar’s Before You Get Your Puppy, as required reading. Dr Dunbar can be quite emphatic in his advice, but he is an expert and a vet who has witnessed too many out of control and unwanted dogs. He wants you forewarned and forearmed. I would read that, feel the weight of responsibility and then, as a leveler, read Bruce Fogle’s practical book Dog: The Definitive Guide for Dog Owners. It covers everything, from dog health to the historical partnership of man and dog, and I like the way he writes.
All those I know who have had a puppy have crate-trained him/her, so top of the list is still a good dog crate. Our injection-moulded plastic Vari Kennel is certainly never going to win style points, but it does the job well – it’s lightweight, it’s cosy when layered with bedding and you can break it down for storage. We weaned Teddy into his smart big-boy dog bed (Teddy’s Tales: In Search of a (Perfect) Dog Bed) a few months ago. Now the crate is stowed away, spoils no interior vistas and just comes out for long car journeys.
I did suggest a bed fleece in the original list and although I bought two, I found myself using old, chuckable towels and plenty of newspaper instead.
I would certainly invest in a puppy playpen. Ours came in mesh panels that could be reconfigured to suit space requirements. Again, not pretty, but a good way to give your puppy some restricted freedom while house training.
I got excited about water and food bowls as, unlike the collar, the lead, the dog bed, etc, they were the one thing I thought I could invest in that Teddy would not have to grow into. I was wrong. We now have two stupidly expensive sets of the same bowls: one puppy-sized, one dog-sized.
I went similarly bonkers with chew toys, sourcing them from all over the place, but actually a few different stuffable Kong toys (follow the size advice on the packs), a tough Big Kahuna toy (which, as well as being a good for a tug of war also spins extremely well on our wooden floor) and a couple of plush toys (that Teddy still transports from room to room) fulfilled requirements.
Your breeder or vet will have an opinion on dog food. General advice still seems to be that you follow their guidance and avoid any dietary changes until your pup is settled. It worked for us.
When it comes to training treats you take your lead from the puppy. It took us a while, but eventually we discovered Teddy’s weakness: Lily’s Kitchen Little Liver Rewards.
Yes, your puppy will need a soft lead and collar – our simple set came from our vet. Probably wise to leave the smart Hermes lead for when you have taught him not to chew it.
It’s worthwhile stockpiling newspapers. We used them to line Teddy’s playpen and for mopping-up and puddle prevention en route to the back door.
Of course, you need poo bags. Hundreds of them.
Finally, to this list I’d add pet insurance, an appointment with the vet to check all is in order and, if you are at all unsure of how to train your puppy – that new family member who will be your constant companion 24/7 – an appointment with a dog trainer or at a puppy class (our best and now only trainer came via word of mouth). Work in some sleep beforehand and in my view, you’re all set. But if you have other ideas for puppy essentials I’d love to hear them.