Puppy preparation is the key to a happy and easy transition for both of you. Our puppy starter kit will help you and your pup focus on bonding rather than last-minute shopping trips.
Creating a happy, safe, and appropriate home environment before getting a pup makes life easier for everyone involved. With a new hunting pup coming myself, I wanted to share my puppy starter kit research in figuring out what I’ll need to best prep.
Age is certainly a determining factor in what you’ll need. Puppies can come home as early as 6-8 weeks old, and they have different needs than older dogs at this pivotal point in their life. For this list’s sake, we’ll be focusing mostly on younger dogs. But you can apply much of this list to older dogs as well.
This list doesn’t include a few things your breeder should provide, including initial vaccinations and health checks throughout their first few weeks. If you’re buying a purebred pup, both parents should have available health tests. They should also provide you with the food brand the pup has been started on so you can continue or switch over to a new food slowly. Pet adoption agencies should supply you with these things as well.
In each section, you’ll find a few options for items, from budget to luxe. Remember to keep your pup’s final size in mind as you decide what to purchase for your puppy starter kit.
GearJunkie’s Puppy Starter Kit
A Collar Outfitted With a Nametag
If your pup is not yet outfitted with a microchip, make your introductory veterinary appointment as soon as you can. And until then, get an expandable puppy-sized collar ($9) or harness ($12) with an identifying tag. If you’re not set on a name yet, you can always include your name and number.
Some collars offer personalization options ($12) if you want to forego tag noises. Or you can opt for a rubber tag that eliminates jingle, like these cute silicone tags by QALO ($30). Keep an eye on collar extension as the puppy grows.
Most pups will near their full-grown size within a year. At that time, you can splurge on a bombproof forever collar. My favorite collars for active dogs are made by Dublin Dog ($15). They’re waterproof, incredibly durable, under $20, and offer a ton of cute options. If you really want to class things up, opt for a stunning bridle leather collar ($65) or harness ($95) made by the fine folks at Filson.
6-Foot Training Leash, 20-Foot Training Lead
Although retractable leashes seem like a good idea, it’s better to first leash-train your puppy on a 6-foot lead ($10). Work on recall and create a respectful relationship before using a retractable leash. For training purposes, it can be helpful to have a long training line ($8) on hand.
Long lines assist you in recall training safely from greater distances, they serve as a staked-out lead on camping trips, and you can teach a variety of behaviors while keeping a solid and safe boundary for your pup. When training my border collie, I found the long lead to be a great tool for socialization and recall while at my local dog park. Eventually, I retired the long lead once all his cues were defined.
I do, however, keep a few 6-foot leashes in my truck, as Montana is especially dog-friendly. And Butch loves his regular trips to Murdoch’s, local breweries, and work events.
A Snuggle Puppy and a Crate
Can 15,000-plus reviewers, with 80% giving five-star ratings, be wrong? Probably not. The Snuggle Puppy plush dog toy ($39) features a heartbeat device and a pocket for non-toxic heat packets. At under $50, multiple reviewers say that this little beating heart plush toy helps pups adjust to sleeping in their crate alone, to traveling in cars, and even for separation anxiety issues in older dogs.
And crate training your puppy offers up a few benefits. First, your pup will have a designated safe space once they adjust to being crated. Second, traveling with your pup is much safer when crated rather than left loose in a vehicle. Third, you can protect your home from toothy damage and your pup from meddling in the wrong things. (Hello, garbage can party!)
Most folks opt for two crates: an indoor crate and a travel crate. Midwest Crates offers multiple sizes of indoor crates ($20-98) and is an affordable Amazon bestseller. Initially, a soft crate ($52) can be a great and affordable travel option. But, for safety’s sake, Gunner Kennels ($400-700) gets our highest mark. Crash-tested and certified for pet safety, these kennels have saved the lives of many animals in accidents.
If training a pup is new to you, I highly recommend the book “The Loved Dog” ($16) by Tamar Geller. It helped me train a highly sensitive border collie puppy into a fabulous companion. This time around, I plan to lean on clicker training in addition to techniques touted by some of the top bird dog training writers.
Clickers ($5 for 2) make up part of mark-and-reward training, using positive reinforcement through classical and operant conditioning. Initially, carrying training treats ($16 for 475) can help definitively mark good behaviors. I carried treats in a ziplock, but you can also level up to a treat pouch ($15). Pouches can also hold biodegradable poop bags ($13), a necessity for your new poopin’ machine.
If you plan on training your pup to retrieve, a training dummy ($10) — or bumper — can be used on land or water. For a more specific feel, these Dokken Dead Fowl Dummies ($23-34) are well-loved by bird dog owners.
The Fun Stuff: Food Bowls, Beds, Blankets, and Toys
For budget tastes, this basic stainless steel food and water bowl set ($12) has 5,000-plus positive reviews. I personally love my YETI Boomer customizable dog bowls ($40-$50) at home, but they’re expensive. On the road, I turn to my Fishpond Peat Moss Travel Bowls ($30), but Tupperware works just as well for travel.
Personally, I covet the beautiful Pendleton Dog Beds ($99-169), but my pup seems to prefer the wood floor. More than 32,000 reviewers love the Furhaven Dog Bed ($21-130, six sizes). Blankets need not be expensive. This sherpa option ($13) is cute and cuddly, or spend a bit more on a leakproof blanket ($20-70) that has a bunch of cute patterns.
Last but not least, playing together really is one of the best parts of having a puppy. Plush toys like this buffalo from Filson ($18) or a plush pig from Outward Hound ($6) are safe for both love and destruction. A Ruffwear frisbee ($25) both flies and floats, while a Nite Ize ball ($15) lights up for play after dark.
If you’ve made it this far, congrats on deciding to bring a new canine family member into your household! There’s so much to learn from our four-legged friends. Time and money invested will pay you back in droves with a companion that will bring joy, peace, and fun to your days together.
And if certain products in our puppy starter kit have worked for you, please let us know in the comments!