Go to any pet store, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed! It’s also hard to resist being impulsive. Each product touts great reasons you need to buy it . . . from promising to cure bad breath and doggy odor to preventing chewing, resolving housetraining issues, and the list goes on. Before you whip out your credit card, let’s walk through a hypothetical store, organize your layout, and target which products will really help!

• Crate

• Baby gates

• Puppy playpen

• Mat/bed

• Tag collar

• Identification tag

• Town license

• Three bowls (two for water, one for food)

• Puppy food

• Leash

• Play toys

• Chew toys/bones

• Clicker (optional)

• Target stick (optional)

• Daily hygiene tools

• Long line/expandable lead

• Snack pack

Food and Bowls

You can get as fancy as you want, or you can use a dinner plate. As long as you’re feeding puppy food, it really doesn’t matter. Of course, stainless steel is easy to wash and is unbreakable. Plastic is not ideal. It can cause allergic reactions and makes a tempting chew. Get two or more bowls for water (more if you live in a hot climate or have a large home) and one for food. Keep the bowls in the same place: your puppy appreciates consistency! Mats and Beds

You can go crazy here matching the décor in every room, or you can use old towels. The key is to give your puppy his own bedding and his own space. Throughout the book, I’ll identify this material as a flat mat (my preference, as it’s easy to transport and wash). Initially, place it in his main room, and use it for everything! Put his toys on the mat. Dole out treats and food on the mat. Store toys and bones on the mat. Have snuggle time on his mat. The goal is total mat bonding. Now, when you go into a new area, bring the mat, or have one like it waiting there. When you go for a car ride, bring the mat. Going on a trip? Think of his mat as a security blanket. In the waiting room or up on the examination table at your veterinarian’s . . . you get the idea!


Puppies need to chew, especially when cutting their adult teeth between 4 and 11 months. Your quest will be finding a satisfying chew. Every biodegradable bone I’ve ever run into has pros and cons. White rawhide expands in the belly, which can cause room-clearing gas and a host of gastrointestinal complications (I don’t generally recommend this one). Pressed rawhide is all right, although hunks can be swallowed, so if your puppy is a voracious chewer, keep your eyes on him. Plastic bones are ho-hum to most puppies; however, if yours is the exception, stock up. Corn starch/vegetable bones can be a favorite, but they break down quickly and create colorful stools. Although the penchant for hard bones is universal, beware—they can break off and cause havoc in the digestive tract. This happened with my Whoopsie (my Labrador Retriever)—a piece broke off and tore her stomach lining, causing bloody vomiting—quite a scare! Needless to say, I cleared the house of hard bones. You’re sure to run into chews created from animal parts (those parts not fit for human consumption): everything from the ears to the tail. Many puppies love these. If you can get beyond the concept and the smell (pee-ew!), go for it; just check to ensure that the parts have been processed in the States and don’t contain any ink by-products (such as tattoos). Get advice from other dog owners and speak to your breeder, your veterinarian, and pet store employees. Tell them about your puppy—his age, breed, temperament, and energy level. Try one bone at a time. When you find a few that satisfy, buy multiples. If one bone rises above the rest, set it aside for important times, such as dinner or when company visits.


Let’s face it—puppies are funny. Of course, if yours is trailing a roll of toilet paper through the dining room for the tenth time, the humor may be wearing thin. To prevent problems before they arise, stock up on chews and toys that spark your puppy’s enthusiasm. It is truly mind-boggling! There are just so many toys available these days, with many making the jump straight from the shelves of Toys “R” Us. How will you know what to buy? Ask your puppy, of course. Call local pet shops and find one that will let you bring him along. There are toys that make noise, have holes, bounce, giggle,change color, and stow kibbles . . . you name it. Our Lab Whoopsie’s favorite toy is a tennis ball; my Shayna (a Border Collie mix) lived for a Frisbee; and Hope, our terrier mix, didn’t go anywhere without her Ducksworth—a stuffed yellow duck.