The New Puppy Checklist For Australian Dog Owners
So you’re about to become a puppy parent! What an exciting time. Introducing a new puppy to your family home is a major decision that you shouldn’t take lightly.
There are a whole host of things you need to think about before you adopt or buy a dog. So consider this your new puppy checklist.
We partnered up with veterinarians and canine behaviourists to form an independent team of experts to ensure we cover all your bases. Together, we discussed the prior considerations you need to think of, how to bring a puppy home, and what you need to buy for them to be happy and healthy in your home.
What To Consider Before You Get A Puppy
Buy or Adopt?
That is a big question! Adopting a puppy is a wonderful thing to do. There are so many beautiful lonely puppies in shelters that are ready for happy homes. By adopting a puppy, you’re supporting your local animal social system, which has been under strain over the past few years. (1)
Contrary to popular belief, adoption is not free. You do have an adoption fee that’ll cover the dog’s first vaccinations and perhaps a care package to take home. The care package may include food and toys.
Alternatively, you can buy a puppy from a breeder.
We’ve written an entire guide on where to buy a dog as it’s very easy to fall into some dangerous traps. Particularly when seeking “designer” dog breeds.
Related: How To Buy A Dog Online
Can You Afford A Dog?
They say that a puppy is for life, not just for Christmas. It’s a significant financial investment introducing any pet into your life, but particularly a dog. Dogs are the most expensive common household pet with the average estimated yearly costs clocking in at $1627. (2)
Just take a peek at the length of the puppy essentials list below. Those dollars add up!
It’s worth doing your research on the cost of owning a dog in Australia before you take the plunge.
How Will A Puppy Fit Into Your Lifestyle?
Do you work from home? Or will you need someone to watch your new rambunctious little one as they adjust to life in your home? How often can you exercise your dog? Are there other household members and how much input can you expect from them? These are all big questions that need to be addressed.
Is Your Home Setup For A Puppy?
This isn’t just about what to buy for a new puppy. This is also about if your home is safe for a puppy to roam freely. Think of it like baby-proofing your space, but instead puppy-proofing.
Are there any low sharp edges you need to be wary of? Is it worth getting a baby gate for stairs and other areas of the house you don’t want your puppy wandering into unsupervised?
Puppies love to explore places with their mouths and get into plenty of trouble while doing so. You need to make sure they won’t leave a trail of destruction in their wake as they explore their new home. Puppy proof your home as best you can for the incoming hurricane!
Have You Set Up Your Puppy’s Medical Team?
Finding a local vet that you trust and has reasonable rates for your budget is imperative before you take a puppy home. It’s best to establish that relationship with the vet before you need them as opposed to in an emergency. Like with human doctors, vets work best when they get to know a dog throughout their life.
It’s also good practice to take out your pet insurance policy early on. Start comparing companies for policies within your budget.
The 'Bringing A Puppy Home' Checklist
Let’s start with the way you take your dog home - physically. Unless you’re having a home delivery - which is a wild thought - you’ll need a vehicle to take your dog home. And your car needs to be fully prepared to carry that dog safely. It’s likely your puppy isn’t used to car journeys so there are a few things you’ll need here. Here's what our panel of independent experts recommend:
To transport your dog, you need a puppy carrier. It’s worth investing in a good quality carrier as opposed to a cardboard box or something similar. This is because you’ll need a carrier quite often as your puppy grows as you are likely to take them to the vet for vaccinations and worming tablets more often.
For the most part, a carrier is going to be the safest way to bring your puppy home so they don’t run around in the back seat or feel unwell. However, if you’re adopting an older puppy, you may opt to put them in a car harness and strap them in with the seat belt as opposed to putting them into a carrier. Of course, this depends on the size of your car too.
For your seats, stock up on protective gear, e.g. blankets or nylon coverings.
My car is my primary relationship so believe me when I say that my car is fully-protected against all scratches and dirt that a dog could cause. There are plenty of great options on the Australian market to protect different parts of your car. You can have a backseat cover that makes the seat waterproof and scratch-proof. There are protectors for the windows and side doors too. You could use blankets but they don’t provide the same waterproof protection that specialist items do.
Again, this all depends on how precious you are with your car. You might not mind deep cleaning your own backseats every now and again. Though a seat protector makes things much easier.
Essential Items That All Puppies Need
In this section, we’ll discuss the things you need to buy for your new puppy to settle into their new surroundings. These are the items that our team of independent experts recommend the most as they will help you bond with your pup, keep them comfortable in their new home and come in a variety of styles and price points.
Collars are more than just walking tools. There are key identifiers to the world that your dog has a home. They’re a passport through life that helps lost dogs get found. They’re a style statement. Sometimes, they’re even training tools. Your dog’s first collar is very special.
Ensure you have the correct fit for your puppy as opposed to purchasing any nondescript puppy collar. Most likely your puppy will grow out of their first collar but it’s still worth buying a quality product. This is because puppies are so active and mischievous, you want that collar to hold up for the time that they’re using it!
Bedding is so incredibly important. We’re often asked if dogs even need beds or if they can get by with blankets as a place to rest. Puppies love blankets and will sleep anywhere because they’re so active and naturally sleep more than older dogs.
A puppy would probably adore being cuddled up with you at night but the jury’s out as to how healthy that is. (3) Having a proper dog bed better supports your puppy’s growth. Even if they sleep in several places around the home such as the sofa, your bed, the floor, and on a pile of blankets, it’s still important for your dog to have their own sacred space to rest.
Speaking of sacred spaces, crates are part of the essential puppy checklist for sure. Dogs are den animals and crates give a feeling of privacy and safety. They’re also effective tools for potty training in the early years. (4) It’s worth noting that not all puppies get on with crate training but it’s worth trying initially. Crates are never a bad investment.
You want to exercise your puppy right? We hope that’s a resounding yes! Puppies need daily walks just as adults do. Get a reliable, strong leash to see you through your first adventures together.
When walking your puppy, plenty of issues can come up at first. They may pull ahead or drag behind. They may be intimidated by surrounding sights, sounds and smells.
All this excitement at the new world they now inhabit can cause them to constantly move in several directions as they explore. I can say firsthand that this is normal, however, the constant movement can cause a lot of neck strain. Particularly because dogs are not born knowing how to walk calmly on a leash. You have to teach them.
All of this strain on a collar can cause injuries. Harnesses are the best alternative. They can help you train good walking habits as well as spread the pressure of the leash pulling across the chest and back. Therefore there’s a lower chance of injury.
Plenty Of Chew Toys
Puppies are like children. They explore with their mouths and everything is fair game. If you want to save your slippers and your sanity, you need a good selection of puppy toys that your dog can happily entertain themselves with. You’ll want to buy a selection of interactive toys and solo toys.
Some dogs can happily entertain themselves for hours with a Kong. Others want to play with you more often. So puzzle games and fetch may be more their speed. It’s good to have a mix of both so you can both bond with your dog and give them appropriate victims for their nuisance chewing!
It’s fair to say that you can expect your home to smell a little different when you bring a puppy home! Until they learn where to pee and poop, things are a bit of a disaster.
My dog was very clever and learned how to use puppy pads within a few days. Other puppies can be more stubborn. It all depends. Come armed with puppy pad stations in your house as designated toilet areas. This is especially important if you don’t have a yard.
Poop bags are essential for when you’re out and about. You could even be fined if you don’t pick up after your dog. It’s not anyone’s favourite part of puppy ownership but it must be done! Get yourself some nice biodegradable poop bags that both save the planet and keep the neighbourhood clean.
Grooming Kits or Brushes
All dogs need some grooming but the frequency and type of grooming will differ depending on the breed. Your dog’s fur type will dictate the grooming tools you buy and how often you’ll need to use them.
Since puppies are so active and messy, you may be grooming them a little more often in the beginning as they get themselves into muddy scrapes on their adventures exploring the world. Grooming your pup is also a lovely bonding experience. There’s nothing quite like brushing through your puppy’s hair as they rest peacefully on your lap!
All dogs love blankets but puppies even more so. They love to be snuggly and warm whenever they can. In the winter months, blankets are useful to have to keep them comfortable in cooler weather.
However, we must caveat that puppies love to destroy blankets too! Either don’t spend too much on them or only use blankets with your dog when supervised. Turn your back for a second and that blanket will be in tatters!
The amount you spend on food will depend on the quality and type. We always advocate buying the best quality dog food you can afford. In the crucial growth period as your puppy ages, nutrition is vital. Good nutrition from the beginning means better health overall.
Coats For Cold Weather
Coats are not “essential” per se, but they are extremely useful in the colder months. Having an extra layer helps short-haired breeds feel more comfortable and active in the winter times. It can also protect from bad weather conditions in all seasons.
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Yes - brushing your dog’s teeth is an important part of maintaining their oral hygiene. Introducing the practice in puppyhood is the best way of ensuring success. Your dog will become accustomed to having their teeth brushed early on and you’ll get used to doing it too. (5)
That said, you can’t just whip out a supermarket toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and get scrubbing. Human toothpaste is toxic to dogs as it often contains xylitol. Look for toothbrushes and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs. The former is usually made of rubber so it’s softer on delicate gums. The latter usually has an appetising bacon flavour to make the experience more pleasant.
Shampoo For Dogs
To keep your dog’s coat healthy and gleaming, you need calming, non-toxic dog shampoo. There are lots of options on the market specifically formulated for different fur types and washing frequencies.
Your vet can also help with pointing you in the right direction. Note that your dog’s fur type may change as they age from puppy to adult.
Food & Water Bowls
A good dog food and water bowl can last you for years! Depending on your dog’s breed, they may be able to use their puppy bowls for a long time. Though many breeds will outgrow them. You don’t want a bowl that is too big for your puppy or you may end up overfeeding them or making it difficult for them to access the food.
Make sure you have a designated food and water station in your home before your puppy arrives. They should always have their food and water sources known to them. If you change the location of these vital things, they’ll get confused and unsettled.
Dog Water Bottle
Lastly, if you intend to travel with your puppy, you need a travelling water bottle to keep them hydrated on the dog. Some fantastic dog water bottles on the market are small enough to fit in a handbag or rucksack as you’re walking. You won’t regret buying this!
My Final Thoughts
So that’s quite the list! No one on our team of independent experts wanted this checklist to alarm you when it comes to bringing your puppy home. All dog apparel has options at different price points and some things you will accumulate gradually over time. For example, you may start with one chew toy and one ball.
Eventually your home will be awash with dog toys as you slowly acquire more over the coming months. Start with the basics and grow from there as your puppy grows with you.
- “Shelters in Crisis as People Surrender ‘Pandemic Puppies’”. April 1, 2021. PETA Australia. Retrieved August 2, 2023. https://www.peta.org.au/news/shelters-in-crisis-as-people-surrender-pandemic-puppies/
- “Pet Ownership in Australia”. August 5, 2013. Animal Health Alliance Australia. Retrieved August 2, 2023. https://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/AMA-Pet-Ownership-in-Australia-5-AUGUST-2013.pdf
- Gibeault, S. July 24, 2017. “Should I Let My Dog Sleep With Me?”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved August 2, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/should-my-dog-sleep-with-me/
- Madson, C. May 2, 2021. “Crate Training Your Puppy or Adult Dog: Everything You Need to Know”. Preventive Vet. Retrieved August 2, 2023. https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/everything-you-need-to-know-about-crate-training-your-puppy-or-adult-dog
- Vogelsang, J. November 25, 2019. “How to Clean a Dog’s Teeth: Tools and Tips.” PetMD. Retrieved August 2, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/grooming/what-best-way-clean-my-dogs-teeth