For those who have been following our journey over at @this_girl_emma_, we don't mean to mislead you - no, we’re not getting Emma a sibling just yet (as much as we’d love to, we want to make sure we’re fully ready)!
We’ve actually been receiving a lot of questions about welcoming a new pup into your home, so we'd like to share our experience welcoming Emma into our family almost 2 years ago, and some things we wish we knew at the time! Hope this helps you better prepare for the arrival of your new family member!
Since there’s a lot to unpack, I want to break out the topics into a few different blog posts.
We’ll be talking about essential equipment and gear in this post, but our future posts will talk about topics like training, food, and socialization.
So let’s talk about equipment and gear! As first-time dog owners, we were clueless on how to welcome a new puppy into our 700sqft condo, let alone figuring out what equipment and gear we’d need. Although we did a ton of research, the information got too overwhelming and we decided to walk into a Pet Smart and ask the staff for assistance on what a “welcome kit” would look like. We want to make sure that you’re ready to welcome your pup, so in order to avoid any confusion, here’s a list of essentials that we’d recommend having ready before your big day! Note that this is an essentials list for Day 1 - there will be additional items you may wish to get in the first week or so, but these 11 items will make sure you can spend your time bonding with your pup when you welcome them home, instead of running around trying to grab additional equipment and gear.
- Pee Pads
Get the largest case that you can find, because you will run through a lot of them as you work on potty training. They’re incredibly helpful not just to clean-up, but also to train your pup to do their business in a specific spot. During our potty training, Emma quickly learned to do her business on the pads when she was inside (which was fantastic), but became so adamant about needing to go on a pad that it took a few weeks for her to begin doing her business outside on our walks. Until she learned to go outside, she’d often hold everything in while we were out on walks and relieve herself on the pad the moment we got back to our condo, so to train her to go outside, we’d often lay out a pee pad in the park to get her to go.
If you end up not needing to use all of the pads, you can always donate to a fellow dog-owner or keep some on-hand for accidents!
- Cost-Effective Dog Bed
Depending on the breed, your dog may outgrow their first bed, so don’t purchase an expensive bed at the beginning. You may also find that during your pup’s teething phase, they may try to chew or potentially break your bed, so going with something cost-effective would be your best bet.
We deliberately say “cost-effective” and not “cheap”, as cheap beds tend to break apart very easily, posing a danger to your pup if they ingest any parts of the bed without your knowledge. So make sure to go with something that is of quality at a price point that you’re comfortable with if/when it can no longer be in use for your pup.
- Cost-Effective Collar
Similar to the beds, your pup may outgrow their first collar, so go with something that is of quality, but not cheaply made. When looking for quality collars, conduct a tug test, and make sure none of the stitching or rivets are loose. Depending on your pup's behavior and the type of training you want to work on, you may end up working with different collars, leaving this first collar as perhaps a name tag or an accessory.
- Sturdy Walking Leash
Unlike the bed or collar, a leash can last you a while if you get a product that is of quality. We recommend a 4ft~6ft leash for walks and close-proximity training. Make sure to find something that you’re comfortable grabbing onto, in cases where your pup may dart. We stayed away from retractable leashes or rope leashes at the first to avoid rope-burn, and worked with flat leashes like the Colours By Emma Original Leash. But once your pup is leash trained, go with something that works for your walking-style, routine and aesthetic!
- Sturdy Long Leash
We used a 10ft long leash when training recall, building up to off-leash training or when we simply wanted to let her run around somewhat freely in open areas. With a long leash, you’d want to look for something that has a little give, to minimize any whiplash if your pup decides to run to the end of your line, and at the same time, something that also doesn’t give you rope-burn. Our 10ft leash was made from a nylon webbing material and did give us some rope-burn, so our next long leash would be something that’s soft on the hands.
- Chew Toy
Your pup will bite! There’s no way around it; biting is how they discover the world and they’ll soon go into their teething phase, so you most likely won’t be able to stop the action of biting altogether. However, what you can do is redirect their biting away from your ankles, furniture and cables to something they are allowed to chew on, like a chew toy. During Emma’s puppy biting/discovery phase, whenever Emma would bite or chew on something she wasn’t supposed to, we would give a firm “no” command and offer her a chew toy. This helped her recognize that the action of biting wasn’t wrong, it was what she was biting that needed correction, and she very quickly learned what she needed to stay away from and what she was allowed to bite/chew.
- Appropriately-Sized Crate
Depending on how you want to house train your pup, a crate can be such an effective tool. Be sure to cop a crate that can accommodate to your dog’s growth, especially if you plan on continually using the crate throughout their lifetime. We purchased a crate that had a fitted divider so that we could adjust the space she was occupying at various stages of her puppyhood. For best crate training results, make sure that the crate space is just big enough for your pup to stand and turn in, but not so big that they have space to roam. Dogs instinctively want to avoid doing their business where they sleep/relax, so by limiting the crate space, you can work on potty training and crate training simultaneously. We made the mistake of allowing Emma too much space inside the crate at first, which resulted in her doing her business on one side of the crate, and sleeping on the other, and us waking up in the morning to bathroom accidents.
One of the most versatile essentials! You’ll most likely have some towels lying around, but be sure to use ones that you’re comfortable parting with! There will be a lot of clean-up during your first few weeks, from wiping their paws, drying them after walks in the rain, clean up after spills (and accidents), or they may actually designate one of your towels as their blanket or toy to sleep with.
- Training Treats
We recommend working on training right from Day 1. It’s the perfect opportunity to not only establish ground rules as they first discover you and your house, but also a way to begin establishing a bond with your pup. You can certainly use their food as training rewards, but we found that Emma wasn’t too fond of her food, making them very low-value and difficult to work on training as she had no interest in obtaining her reward for a job well done. So we went out to grab training treats and this was a game-changer!
After some trial and error, we now consistently purchase our treats from two Ontario-based businesses. We purchase treats from Oh My Dogness, a wonderful and thoughtful dog treats company based in Ontario that is very meticulous about the sourcing of its protein products.
They use local farmers, freeze their protein for at least two weeks to kill off harmful bacteria, and treat the proteins in an apple cider vinegar solution to prevent bacterial growth before dehydrating as treats. They have a variety of different treats so it's always such a great way to introduce Emma to new foods from a company that we trust.
We also use Its Barking Good, another Toronto-based dog treats company. They produce single-ingredient treats that are locally sourced in and around the Greater Toronto Area, and they give back to the community by donating $2 from each of their product sales to Women & Dog Shelters.
The first time we gave Emma the "Can't Liver Without" dehydrated beef liver, she really took a liking to it compared to any other generic beef liver treats that are available at pet stores, so we're now in the process of trying some new treats from Its Barking Good!
Speak with your breeder/rescue contact and inquire about their current diet. You can purchase the same food in anticipation for their arrival, or based on their dietary restrictions/needs, purchase something new that you believe would be a good fit for your pup. However, as you never know for sure if they will like the food, or if their stomach can handle the food, purchase the smallest bag available first. May be a bit of a cost compared to larger bags, but if your pup doesn’t take to the food you purchased, you won’t end up with a massive bag of food that you can no longer feed. As mentioned before, Emma wasn’t too fond of the food she was eating before she came to us. Although we received some from the breeder to help her transition into the kibble of our choice, she took a liking to her new kibble much more, but found that her poops weren’t as healthy as we’d hoped. We tried about 5 different kibble brands (which all upset her stomach) before our friends recommended we try a raw diet, and we’ve been feeding her raw ever since. Every dog is different, and handles their food differently, so until you find something that works, our recommendation is to purchase food in small quantities.
Last, but certainly not least, this is for us humans!
Have a binder ready as you will have a lot of documentation that you’d want to keep organized. From breeder/rescue documentation, medical documents, pet registration docs, to equipment and gear user manuals, there are a ton of paperwork that you’ll want to have handy. We didn’t take the time to organize our documents at first, which resulted in us often rushing and scrambling to find certain documents needed for early morning vet visits, before we went into work (lots of arguing and blaming each other for lost docs lol).
Hope these tips can help you avoid unnecessary stress and really focus all of your attention to your new family member! We’ve shared (and continue to share) a lot of our experiences on Emma’s Instagram @this_girl_emma_, so have a look for other tips that may be helpful to you!
Let us know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d like to know about our journey with Emma!