Once you have found the perfect dog at the shelter, you will need to prepare your home for her first day. There is a short list of basic equipment you will need before you actually adopt a dog and bring her home.
Some of the things you will need may seem obvious, especially if you have owned dogs in the past. But if it has been a while or you are new to dog ownership, some things your dog will need may be overlooked. Over time, you will most likely add many other things to your dog’s list of supplies and equipment. But initially, you can keep the list fairly short and purchase a handful of essential items. Once you discover what your dog likes, and what you need to manage her, you can expand the list accordingly.
Basic Equipment You Will Need Before You Bring Your Dog Home
Here is a short list of supplies you will absolutely need in the beginning:
- Food and water bowls
- A bed and small dog blankets
- Dog food
- Poop bags
Bowls and Food
You should avoid heavy ceramic bowls that can be expensive and break easily. They may look nice but are not practical. Also avoid plastic bowls (except for travel purposes), as they are harder to keep clean and can be chewed up. I prefer stainless steel bowls with rubber lining on the bottom to keep them from skidding. They can easily be cleaned and kept free of bacteria and will last a long time.
I also suggest you start with a quality dry kibble and avoid wet dog food. Canned dog food may seem tasty to your dog and can be a good topper. But it can also cause your dog to gain weight and may cause gastric distress due to additional spices. See my post Is It Okay to Feed Dry Kibble to Your Brand New Rescue Dog? for more information on how to select a good dog food.
Collars and Leashes
Leather collars and leashes may look nice and last a long time, but I prefer nylon as it is easier to clean and dries out pretty fast if caught in the rain. Please do not buy choke collars or collars with spikes! Using these are very inhumane ways to control a dog. If you think the dog might pull too much, there are a couple of head halters which work well. I really like the Gentle Lead by Pet Safe (Amazon, affiliate partner link), which is considered one of the best correction halters. It is very easy on both you and your dog. There are also a variety of body harnesses which discourage pulling but they can constrict the dog’s gait a bit, so you will need to measure and try it out if you go that route.
You will want to keep your leashes short initially–no longer than 4 to 6 feet. This will give you better control until you get to know your dog better. You can later buy a longer lead for hikes or a retractable leash for jogging. Be sure to take those poop bags with you on your walks. There is nothing worse than stepping in someone else’s mess, so please be a responsible owner.
And don’t forget a dog bed! I really like the bolster beds for medium sized and small dogs. They are cushy, oval, and have a raised, thick outer edge to make your dog feel secure and give her a place to rest her head. There are also larger, rectangular beds for bigger dogs who may need to stretch out. I have a variety of beds in my house for my two rescue dogs. I have bolster beds, day beds for the living room, and of course, my bed! See my funny post about The Argument: Sleeping in the Doggie Bed or Mom’s Bed.
Safety Equipment You Will Need Before You Adopt Your Dog
You may need a crate or carrier for your dog initially. Depending on your dog’s prior experience and personality, this may make your dog feel more secure. You may also need it for the first two weeks to deter your dog from destructive behavior or accidents when you have to go out.
This will be especially true if your new dog is a puppy. For puppies I would also recommend lots of plastic/fabric potty mats, as well as lots of paper towels and vinegar for cleaning up messes.
I am not a big crate fan for mature dogs, as I do not like them to be confined any more than necessary. But for some smaller dogs, it can be like a little den. So it really depends on the dog.
You can also use a child’s playpen and child gates to keep your new dog corralled if needed. My two adult rescue dogs have a lot of energy and my first trainer suggested extra gates to make sure they did not run off. So, I placed a sturdy child gate on my front porch to keep them from running out the door each time I opened it. They are actually pretty good about not running out now. But I decided to leave it up, so I can invite them out onto the front porch when I visit with the neighbors.
I also have a double gate in my back yard. My neighbors and their kids like to come over and visit with the dogs. I have a large wooden gate that swings open which could be very inviting. So I installed a redwood trellis with a four foot gate just a few feet away from the larger gate. It is a perfect solution when I am doing yardwork and need to leave the bigger gate open, or if a maintenance person comes into my yard.
When you are transporting your dog, a crate is probably the safest option if you can fit it into your car, truck, or SUV. There are also seat belt harnesses for dogs as well as booster seats and hammocks to help secure your dog. I also strongly suggest you get a dog guard to keep your dog out of the front seat. You may even get a ticket if you are caught with your dog near the drivers seat. But please do not connect your dog’s collar to a seat belt with a lead or let her ride in an open truck bed. This could kill your dog!
You will want something to keep your dog entertained, but dogs differ in the kind of toys they like. Small dogs may like soft, squeaky toys to drag around. Larger dogs may want a bone to gnaw on. Some dogs love to play catch. So, you may want to start with a sturdy ball for fetch, a frisbee to chase, a durable stuffed animal, and a safe fake bone. That is enough variety to see what will appeal to your new dog. But here are some basic rules about toy safety:
- Balls should be durable and not easily chewed up or they could cause a stomach obstruction
- Stuffed animals should be durable and not have any plastic parts or stuffing that can be swallowed
- Toys that squeak can be dangerous if the squeaker box is torn out and swallowed; they can also make some dogs hyperactive
- Fake bones made from hard plastic or nylon can break teeth. Hard rubber, bamboo, or wood composite bones are better.
- Use rope toys with caution and supervision. Strings can be swallowed and get wrapped around the intestinal tract and require surgery.
My favorite toy brands are Kong, West Paw, and Spot, which all have a variety of ethical and safe toys. Most major pet retailers and Amazon carry their products. See my post about my favorite recommended toys.
Other Important Supplies and Products to Get as Soon as Time Permits
You will find it challenging to get everything at once. There are several items of equipment you will need before you adopt your dog. But, if you have handled the basic list, some safety concerns, and a few toys, you have done well.
But as soon as you have time, I suggest you also add the following to your list:
- Dog Tags — these can be easily be ordered on-line or from a pet store; They should include your dog’s name and your phone #, email, and/or address
- City License Fee and Tags — these will also help identify your dog and you will not get fined if you get them within 30 days in most cities
- Vet exam — make sure your pet has no underlying health issues
- Flea/Tick and Heartworm medications
- Dog brush and comb
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Dog toothbrush and toothpaste
- Ear cleaning wipes
This may seem like a lot of equipment that you will need before you adopt your dog. But if you follow the order above and take it step by step, it will be manageable. Over time you will keep adding to the list, as you discover new things your dog or you need to have a joyful and healthy life together.