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Before I got my puppy, I thought the hardest part about having one was picking out a name. But on my first sleepless night with Wilco — a cheeky name considering he's not usually willing to comply with commands— I learned just how hard having one can be.
For starters, he tried to finish off my favorite flip-flops. Then, he insisted on peeing on the most trafficked part of the carpet. (By the time National Dog Day rolls around, I hope to have him 100% potty-trained.)
They're also expensive. According to Rover, the "true cost of a puppy in 2019" is $1,487. I've spent about $1,200 so far. But much of what I've acquired has been much needed. A solid puppy starter pack is not only an investment in your puppy's health, it's also an investment in your sanity.
Here's what I recommend having on hand before you bring home that furry little bundle of joy.
1. Pet Republique Finger Toothbrush, $7, Amazon
"Getting your new puppy used to having their mouth touched from a very early age not only sets a foundation for great oral health routine, it also helps make veterinarian exams a better experience for both pet and vet," said Dr. Kurt Venator, Chief Veterinary Officer, Purina. He recommended this bestselling (4.2 stars from 1,600 reviews) finger brush made from food-grade materials. For $7, you get 6 brushes. Each one lasts about 2-3 months. For toothpaste, try this bestselling $12 toothpaste (4.5 stars from 2,829 reviews).
2. AmazonBasics Folding Metal Dog Crate, $33, Amazon
I'm not a real mom yet. But I think having a dog who loves their crate is like having a baby who loves getting their diaper changed. It makes life a lot easier. This crate has more than 11,000 reviews and an impressive 4.6-star rating. It sets up in seconds (and folds flat in seconds), includes an easy-to-clean removable pan and even has a divider so you can grow the interior space as your puppy grows.
3. Pee-Pee Pads (100-count), $15, BJ's
According to the American Kennel Club, potty training your puppy can take months. I've had Wilco for three weeks now, and he still has an accident in the house at least once a week. Fortunately, my parents gave me pee-pee pads left over from their Bernese Mountain Dog puppy who is a couple weeks older than Wilco. These pads have five layers that work to attract puppies to pee in the same spot, absorb urine, resist leaks and control odor.
4. Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover, $11, Amazon
Even if you have a nice stash of pee-pee pads, accidents are going to happen. For that, you'll want to keep this spray handy. It has an impressive 4.2-star rating from nearly 2,000 reviews (most negative reviews are about the light citrus scent). It works on feces, urine, vomit and drool and can be used on almost any floor surface including carpet and hardwood.
5. Lobster Rope Toy, $8, T.J. Maxx
Puppies are going to chew, so why not have them chew on something that's good for them? Louie the lobster is a hand-knotted rope toy that "naturally frays" to double as doggie dental floss. It's from the eco-friendly company, Jax & Bones, so you know the rope is biodegradable and the red dye comes from vegetables.
6. Kibble Pet Brush-in Shine Waterless Shampoo, $22, Amazon
Wilco spends a lot of time on my parents' farm. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time to give him daily baths. That's why I love this no-rinse shampoo that keeps him fresh until I can give him another bath. It's hypoallergenic and the natural ingredients are safe for puppies. It includes jojoba seed oil, red raspberry seed oil, argan oil and niaouli oil which acts as a disinfectant and kills bacteria.
7. Tear-Free Puppy Shampoo & Conditioner, $4, Brandless
When your puppy rolls in something that requires a rinse, use this gentle tear-free shampoo and conditioner combination. It also features safe ingredients like oatmeal, aloe vera, shea butter and cocoa butter, so it won't irritate a puppy's sensitive skin.
8. Instant Screen Door, $59, Orvis
When Wilco is full grown, I hope he'll be as big as his dad (170 pounds). That's why in lieu of a traditional doggy door, I like the idea of this instant screen door that he (and I) can walk right through, hands free. It uses a magnetic closure, so bugs won't get in, and it hangs from a tension rod so it's easy to install and take down without needing tools. From 158 reviews, it has a 4.4-star rating, and comes in several different sizes.
9. Namast'ay Home With My Dog Sweatshirt, $20, Etsy
Puppies grow fast. You won't want to miss a minute of their cutest stages. Since getting Wilco, I've turned down almost every invite that didn't include a puppy-friendly plus one. This sweatshirt says it all. It has 5 stars from more than 1,000 reviews. But the best part is 10 percent of sales benefit a different canine rescue organization every month. So far, the mother and daughter team behind the brand has donated more than $25,000 to help rescues.
10. Grannick's Bitter Apple Deterrent Dog Spray, $10, Walmart
This furniture-saving product came onto my radar a few years ago when my roommate got a boxer puppy. Little Roger was determined to eat my new couch until my roommate sprayed this on it. It's made from a nontoxic formula that works on everything from fabric to fur (for puppies who might be gnawing at a hot spot). Simply spray it on any surface that your puppy wants to put in its mouth.