The Essential Puppy Checklist


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 20, 2024

The Essential Puppy Checklist

Becoming a pet parent -- whether your first time or not -- is exciting. It's a rewarding experience full of love and excitement, but it also requires preparation and time.  

Here is a breakdown of what you need to know before you bring your new furry family member home.

Make Sure You're Ready

A puppy is a lot of work, especially when you first bring them home. You need to have the time and energy to give them the proper care they need. (And if you don't have the time, there are plenty of senior dogs who would be eager to give you love and affection.)

  • Be prepared for lots of playtime, walks, frequent feedings, and bathroom breaks.
  • Finding the right puppy is important: before you adopt, take into account the amount of space you have and if that would be enough for your pet once they grow up.
  • If you have children or other pets, look for a type of dog that is known for being child-friendly and able to socialize well (labs, retrievers, etc).
  • If you have allergies due to pet dander, you can look for a dog breed that has less of a chance of giving you allergies (but keep in mind that there are no 100% hypoallergenic dogs).
  • Long-haired breeds require more grooming than their short-haired counterparts, so you'll have to take them to a groomer's and regularly clean hair off your clothes and furniture.
  • Purebred dogs tend to have more health issues than mixed-breed dogs, which can save you a lot of grief in the long run. No matter what you decide, we recommend adopting from a shelter and avoiding puppy mills.

Before you bring them home, make sure your home is puppy-proofed and safe for them:

  • Remove any small objects that could be a choking hazard or hide anything you don't want to be chewed up (electrical cables, shoes, etc) while they are teething and use anti-chew spray to protect your belongings
  • Rearrange furniture to give them space to play and run
  • Put up gates to keep them from potentially falling down the stairs
  • Keep them away from potentially toxic substances (such as certain houseplants or household chemicals) and situations

When You Bring Them Home


It's going to take some time for both you and your puppy to adjust to your new relationship.

Microchip, License, & Register

It's important to microchip your pet as soon as you adopt them; in fact, most shelters require it, since it can help you find your pet in the unfortunate case that they get lost. (Note: pet insurance may cover the cost of microchip implantation.)

After your puppy is microchipped, register and license your puppy and include the chip number in the information.


While you need to be flexible and gentle with your new puppy when they first come home, you'll also need to set expectations and rules from the start by housetraining them. That means starting a routine for mealtimes, bathroom breaks, playtime, crate training, and bedtime.

Puppies require frequent meals (up to five times a day, depending on your pup) and will need to use the bathroom shortly after mealtimes, so this is when you can begin training them, first with a potty pad, then by taking them on regularly scheduled walks.

Once your puppies are healthy enough and fully vaccinated, you can begin taking them on playdates or to dog parks to socialize with other dogs and people.

It'll take time for your puppy to become fully adjusted to their new life, so continue to be patient and loving as they grow. You'll be rewarded with unconditional love.

Take Them To The Vet

Finding the right veterinarian is important, so be sure to research nearby vets, read reviews, and ask the shelter, friends, and family for recommendations.

You'll also want to look for an animal hospital that is open 24/7 for emergencies for when you can't get to your vet immediately.

It's essential to take your puppy to the vet as soon as possible for their vaccinations, flea prevention, deworming, and wellness checkups. This way, you can get an overall picture of their health and find out if you need to take any preventative steps.

When you go to your appointment, take any important paperwork you received from the shelter or any information on their medical history.

This is also the perfect time to ask your vet for recommendations on food, treats, and other puppy needs. You can expect your vet will check the following on your puppy:

  • Weight
  • Joints, muscles, lymph nodes
  • Lungs and heart
  • Skin and fur
  • Eyes and ears

Invest In Pet Insurance

Vet care bills -- whether it's a wellness appointment, treatment, or emergency -- are expensive. Many pet parents have a hard time covering these bills and some even have to turn down treatment because they can't afford it.

Getting pet insurance as soon as possible is essential: pet insurance providers generally exclude pre-existing conditions, which makes coverage difficult as your pet ages and has a higher risk of developing an illness.

Pet insurance has several types of plans and can cover a variety of health issues, including exam fees, hereditary conditions, dental issues, physical therapy, surgery, and more.

Need more information on pet insurance? Learn more about our top providers here.

What You Need: The Puppy Checklist

Your new puppy is going to need some supplies in addition to love and care. Here's what you need to get started:

  • Puppy food, since they need a different diet from full-grown dogs and the type of food they need -- wet or dry food -- varies based on their size, breed, and age.
  • Treats and treat pouch for rewards and training
  • Teething toys to help with their pain and keep them from chewing on your shoes and furniture
  • Toys like plushies, chew toys, and balls
  • Stainless steel food and water bowls
  • Adjustable collar and leash
  • Nametags with important information
  • Brush or comb
  • Puppy shampoo
  • Nail clippers or trimmers/grinders
  • Puppy toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Dental chews
  • Clicker for training
  • Anti-chew spray (like bitter apple spray)
  • Potty training pads
  • Waste bags and pooper scooper
  • Pet wipes
  • Towels, rags, or paper towels for cleaning messes
  • Pet bed
  • Pet crate
  • Bedding
  • Pet gate
  • Exercise pen
  • Enzyme cleaner for pet stains and odor
  • Lint roller and rubber broom for your clothes, carpets, and furniture
  • Blankets
  • Travel kennel
  • Flea and tick medication
  • Heartworm medication

Your puppy deserves the best, and it's important to make regular vet checkups to keep them in tip top shake. Pet insurance can help cover the costs of this care to keep your new family member happy and healthy for their entire life.

Should I buy pet insurance for my puppy?

Absolutely! Not only can pet insurance help you cover the costs of expensive procedures, but the best time to buy pet insurance and receive the best coverage is when your pets are young and healthy.

What should I do the first few days after I bring my puppy home?

There are some important steps you'll need to take once you bring your puppy home: buy some puppy essentials (such as food, bowls, collar, tags, pet bed, etc), begin potty/behavior/crate training, and make sure they have a vet appointment to get an overall assessment of their health.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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