It’s important to be prepared before bringing a new dog home. Getting a new dog is an exciting commitment and I’m you’ll want to make the transition as stress-free and fun as possible (particularly if they are a rescue dog, or a small puppy).
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Housing and Bedding
Link for a crate
The first essential item is a dog crate. To the uninitiated a dog crate can look like a doggy prison, but is actually a safe and secure space for your dog. It is their home, their den, and although it can be locked by you at suitable times it should never be used as a punishment. One of our dogs can be a little overwhelmed if there are visitors and she’ll slink off to her crate and curl up for some quiet time. A crate can be used to securely transport your dog if necessary, and is also very helpful for toilet training. For more info see our blog on Crate Training.
The dog crates we have used are the Ellie-Bo ones, which are sturdy and fold up well, and fit with standard sized beds.
A comfortable bed is a must-have for your new furry friend. It's important to choose a bed that provides the right level of support and comfort, especially for older dogs or dogs with joint issues. If the crate is in a part of your home that can get cold at night then a cosy bed and blanket will also help them snuggle in. When you adopt your dog you should ask their foster home for a blanket (or similar) that the dog is already used to - the familiar smell will help them to get used to their new home. Ellie-Bo beds are what we use, we like them because they don't curl up at the sides so there's more room for our older dogs. For puppies we would add extra blankets for cosiness.
In very warm weather, keeping your dog cool can be difficult. One thing we use in her crate on a warm night that stops Luna from staying awake and panting all night is a mat that helps conduct their body heat away. We also remove the blanket for the top of the crate of course. Here's the heat mat we use (we also put it in the shade around the house):
Link for a Heat dissipating mat
Food & Drink
Having a dedicated food and water bowl for your dog is essential. Choose bowls that are easy to clean and sturdy enough to withstand your dog's mealtime excitement. Plain stainless steel ones will do the job and be easily washed, or you may want something similar but prettier, but if you have a dog that would otherwise guzzle it in one gulp, you may want to try out a bowl with a pattern that makes them work a little for their dinner!
Dog foods vary wildly in type and quality. I would personally recommend a cold-pressed pellet type dog food, or a good quality dry kibble type. Wet dog foods are much more expensive, bulky to store, and the soft texture is worse for their teeth. Puppies need a food with a higher calorie density, as do working or high energy breeds. Dogs generally shouldn’t get much, if any, human food – you don’t want them to think your food is theirs, and a lot of your food is very bad or even deadly poisonous to them. For this reason dog foods must be completely balanced in terms of protein, carbs, and vitamins and minerals – and unfortunately a lot aren’t, but often the ones that are good need to be bought in bulk. A great resource to research brands is https://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk Our dogs have been quite picky eaters in the past but are now on ‘Gentle’ original cold-pressed pellets; they both love it, and it is very highly rated and isn't too expensive (and it shipped to NI no problem after Brexit!)
Treats and chews should be kept to a minimum but are very useful when training dogs that are food-driven (some breeds just need you to tell them they’re great!). I simply buy a cucumber every week and chop it up and put it in the freezer – my dogs love it! If you do buy treats look for options that are low in calories and made from natural ingredients. Dentastix can also be considered - but if your dog food is a dry/hard type then the abrasion from that, combined with a dog toothpaste, is the same as the benefit from Dentastix.
Depending on the breed, regular grooming can help to maintain your dog's coat and skin health. Choose brushes and combs that are appropriate for your dog's coat type and length. Don’t forget your own grooming too – we’ve found that the clothes brushes that promise to take off dog hair are ok, but the sticky rollers are far easier and effective. We feel it’s only polite to offer it to guests in our house as they are leaving!
The less shampooing of your dog the better – save it for when they are really dirty or starting to smell a bit. Our wee Izzy has a habit of rolling on worms or hedgehog poo or fox poo and gets a very regular shampooing! When needed, a gentle shampoo made for dogs, or a baby shampoo should be used.
Dogs walked on pavements regularly will naturally file their nails down, but dogs who are on grass may need their nails trimmed. Invest in a pair of sharp and safe nail clippers, and a nail file to smooth any rough edges.
It's also vital to keep on top of good oral hygiene with your dog - get a dog toothpaste and a brush (or even just use your finger, the important thing is for the toothpaste to coat their teeth), and start as early as you can to get them used to it. Teeth are a major cause of issues in dogs, and regular brushing will do them the world of good. Never use a human toothpaste on a dog (and keep it out of reach) as most contain an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Remember to do this as early as possible with a puppy, as you'll read about in our puppy blog.
A collar with your contact info on it is a legal necessity as well as being an obviously sensible thing for them to have. If it’s a puppy, get them used to something round their neck early on, e.g. a soft cat collar with a piece of string attached. Leads for walking your dog should be strong and durable – some people don’t like the retractable type because when extended you are not in control if the dog darts off towards another dog/squirrel/car, so bear that in mind. If you have another dog, you may find one lead with a splitter is a better option than two leads.
Coats and jumpers are really only necessary for breeds with very low body fat and hair such as greyhounds, but it also depends on the dog – Our Chihuahua cross Izzy loves being toasty hot (she’ll be in the greenhouse on a hot summer’s day!) and has a jumper or two in her wardrobe. If you want your dog to have a fashionable Christmas jumper (or matching pyjamas...), just be aware they could overheat so don't keep it on them too long. One other bit of clothing you hopefully won't need is a post-surgery suit - if your dog has had a procedure that means the 'cone of shame' is required, then this might be a good alternative.
Health and Safety
A basic first aid kit for your dog is important to have on hand in case of an emergency. This can include items such as gauze, bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and a tick removal tool. You should also consider having the number of your vet readily available in case of an emergency.
Link to a tick removal tool
The best toy is one that the dog is interested in – they don’t need to be expensive. The puppies we’ve had have all had endless amusement from empty toilet rolls! A toy needs to be good quality, otherwise a dog will bite a hole in it and potentially ingest some of the stuffing. Puppies will need chew toys because they go through teething just like babies. The best toy will also depend on your dog’s breed, some like to play fetch all day and some like small squeaky toys better; you may find it useful (and interesting!) to read our blog on what jobs dog breeds were originally bred for.
You'll also pick things up as you go along, and if you have any questions most people you'll meet out walking their dog are happy to let you know about their experiences!