You’ll need to pick up some tools and supplies.
 Download printable checklist w/ clickable links.

Read about each item below and how to use it.

The following tools are required.

The dog crate is your puppy’s “rest” area – and is a place you should teach them to love.

There are long-term and short-term reasons for teaching your dog to love a crate.

In the short term, the crate can be super useful for potty training. Most dogs will not soil their beds (unless they are left in for too long, or they’ve already learned to soil the bed – common with puppy mill dogs).

The most important long-term reason is that it’s likely your dog will need to be crated in the future – at the vet, for travel purposes, at the groomers or boarding. It will be so much less stressful for everyone if the dog is comfortable in her crate!

The crate should be big enough for the puppy to stand up and turn around in, without being able to make herself a separate potty “nook”. I recommend getting a metal crate with a divider so that the crate can grow with the puppy!

Tip: You can often find good crates on craigslist for cheap. It’s a great way to get yourself a few crates for different parts of the house.

This turned up from a quick amazon search but really any crate will do. Click here to search craigslist or check out yard sales. Just make sure it includes a divider. And I do like the double door feature.

Exercise pens (commonly called x-pens) and baby gates can be used to give your puppy a larger confined area that offers more freedom while still preventing them from getting into trouble when you aren’t watching. Think of it like you would think of a child’s play-pen.

X-pens are generally ugly and clunky, but can be set up anywhere and give the puppy a place where she can be playful as part of the family. You can also use baby gates to confine your puppy to a single room like a kitchen. But that is less flexible for moving around and the puppy still has access to cabinets or other things they might chew up!

Typically, when puppies are awake and playing, they will need to pee at least every 30-45 min. They will also likely need to pee anytime they wake up from a nap. So if your puppy is going to be in the pen for more than 30-45 mins then you should set up some puppy pee pads in the corner for them to do their business (tip: tape them to the floor so the puppy doesn’t shred them!). Otherwise you will need to make sure that they get out to potty within that time frame or put them in their crate.

If you plan on leaving your puppy alone for longer than 3-4 hours, then an x-pen with pee pads in the corner is a necessity – it’s simply not fair to expect the puppy to be able to hold it, even in a crate (though they might be able to – every puppy is different).

If you can get the puppy out to potty every few hours, then the x-pen might be optional, but I still highly recommend one. Look on craigslist for cheap ones.

Tip: Power up your crate training by leave the puppy’s bed in a small crate in the x-pen as the most comfortable place for the puppy to relax!

If you don’t want to use puppy pads, then you need to make sure she gets out often enough to prevent accidents!

This is an inexpensive, not fancy x-pen. Again, click here to check craigslist or you might have some luck at yard sales.

I literally just bough this baby gate – nothing fancy but does the job. Click here to search craigslist.

These are a specific type of food dispensing toys designed to be used with a combination of wet and dry treats. Think of these toys as similar to plopping a child down in front of cartoons – but with the added bonus of providing mental stimulation.
I’ve tried several and the Busy Buddy Twist n’ Treat is my favorite, with the Classic Kong a distant second. But each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Twist n’ Treat
1. Difficulty level is adjustable – just twist it to make the food opening larger or smaller. This can be really helpful for teaching the puppy how to use the toy and being able to make it harder once they learn it.
2. They have equal access to the entire opening (unlike a Kong where the opening gets deeper and deeper). Makes it easier for the dog to eventually get through it without giving up.

1. Nowhere near as tough as a Kong so easier for strong dogs to chew through (but shouldn’t be an issue with puppies).

Classic Kong
1. Mainly the toughness, so as they get older they are less likely to destroy

1. Harder to adjust difficulty
2. As the food is deeper in the kong, the puppy might give up easier (try to put the best stuff at the very bottom)

Both are much cheaper on amazon than in stores (though you should support your local pet store!)

If you buy from amazon, you can use these links to support ME.

Twist n’ Treat

Classic Kong

Get larger sizes, even if you have a small puppy. The smallest Twist n’ Treat or Kong that I find useful is the medium size. There are also puppy editions of each but I always get the normal ones.

Stick with the Classic Kong, not any of the variations. And don’t buy any of the “made for Kong” treats or stuffing. They are overpriced and not what you need.

You probably already have dog food, but check that it is high quality.

A lot of food sold in stores is quite frankly, crap. The website is a good resource that rates a wide variety of dog food brands on a 1-5 star basis. But a quick look at the first five ingredients (ingredients are listed in order of amount) is generally enough to see whether a brand should be avoided.

Good rules of thumb are:

  1.  Look for the first ingredient or two to be a meat protein, preferably with one of them being a “meal” (for example, “chicken meal, lamb meal”).
    2. Avoid brands that list “corn” in the first five ingredients. Corn is primarily a filler and provides the dog with little nutritional value.
    3. Avoid anything with an ingredient that includes “by-products”, unless you want to feed your dog the stuff they sweep off the slaughterhouse floor.

I feed my dogs grain-free “Taste of the Wild”. Go to amazon for a reasonable price (as of this writing). In a pinch, I’ll buy Rachel Ray Zero Grain from HEB but not sure if it’s an all ages food.

I recommend using plain old puppy kibble for as much training as possible. But you will probably need something of higher value when teaching the harder stuff. The important thing is that your puppy must really want it. A good option to start with are Zuke’s Mini-Naturals (they are already small but I cut them up into thirds to make them even smaller!).

Remember when you were a kid and had a bunch of toys but always wanted something new? Dogs are no different. They love the novelty of a new toy.

Go to Marshall’s or Ross or Tuesday Morning (I like Marshall’s best) and pick up 6 or 7 cheap squeaky toys. But don’t give them all to the puppy at once. Instead, give one or two at a time, then rotate the assortment in and out as needed. When you give a new toy, pick the other up. You might rotate every day or even better a few times a day. This will help create novelty – they will be excited to get the “new” toy and less likely to find their own “new toy” (AKA your expensive shoe!).

Always be careful of your puppy chewing up and swallowing parts of toys!

For stuffing in your Twist n’ Treat or Kong. Mix in dry kibble or higher value treats.

I like to use Low Fat Plain Yogurt best but you can also use peanut butter, canned pumpkin, or wet dog food. Avoid products with artificial sweeteners.

See “x-pen and baby gates” for how to use. Not required if you are always home and can get the puppy out every 30 min.

Never put pee pads in crate!

Here are some on amazon but get ’em wherever.

Some puppies get so excited to play when they are let out into the yard that they forget to do their business. To counter that problem, I like to put a lightweight leash on a puppy every time I take them out to potty. After they’ve done their business, the leash comes off. That helps the puppy distinguish the difference between potty time and play time. It also helps them learn to wear a leash – hold the leash very loose so that the puppy still feels free – don’t try to guide them or pull them or apply any pressure at all to the leash.

Make sure it’s lightweight – not a big heavy thing! Something like this is fine but really just get something cheap from anywhere for now.

A flat collar is just your standard ol’ collar.

A martingale looks like a flat collar but has an extra piece of fabric. Keeps the puppy from slipping out of the collar easily, giving you a little bit more control. More importantly, it prevents excessive pressure on the puppy’s throat when they pull, which can damage the puppy’s trachea.

I use these because they are inexpensive and good quality.

The following tools are also recommended:

Another type of food puzzle toy meant only for kibble or dry treats. If your puppy gobbles up a bowl of kibble (without anything added) in under 2 minutes, these are great to use in their x-pen. I like the Kibble Nibble and the Kong Wobbler. If you live upstairs above someone then be aware they can be noisy for the neighbors below.
Includes the type of chew treats you can give a puppy and expect them to finish in one sitting, usually in under 15 minutes. Examples are thin “mini” spiral bully sticks.
Having a few toys that are meant for long-term chewing can be a good outlet for your puppies mouthiness. Great for subbing out when your puppy is intent on chewing something they shouldn’t be! Nylabone makes some good long-term chew toys – my pups seem to like these dinosaur-shaped ones.
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