Prep Your Home for a Puppy With These Lifesavers

These are the essentials we'd give first-time dog parents.

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Doggie Placemat

Just like babies, puppies are really messy eaters. Lay out a rubber or vinyl placemat under new food and water bowls for easy — and contained — cleanup.

Head Lamp

This may seem like a strange gift but it's a godsend during the first couple weeks of 3 a.m. potty breaks. Place a headlamp on your bedside table, so as soon as you wake up you've got a clear path to the crate with both hands ready to wrangle a puppy that doesn't understand how to hold it yet.

Baby Wipes

Puppies don't have great immune systems, and during the first couple of months — especially before completing all rounds of vaccinations — a puppy is susceptible to intestinal parasites. These are spread by tracking in feces and soil from outside — and they can even give some of these to you. Prevent tracking in bugs by immediately wiping a pup's paws after every visit outside. The extra step is annoying since puppies go outside a lot, but the peace of mind is worth it.

Food Puzzles

Puppies get excited about food. Really excited. And when they're excited they tend to inhale food. Eating too quickly can upset a puppy's tummy, so help them slow down at mealtime with food puzzles. You can try bowls with mazes or snuffle mats that hide food. These puzzles give pups a safe space for acting out instinctual behaviors, such as foraging and digging, so it's a great mental exercise, too.

The Right Chews

One of the most common struggles parents have with puppies is chewing furniture. You can't stop a puppy from chewing because dogs need healthy outlets for instinctual behaviors they would do in the wild. And chewing is actually a stress-reliever for dogs, but it's important to use positive reinforcement to teach a puppy what's OK to chew. Rubber chews, such as Kongs, are great, long-lasting toys with secret pockets for stuffing treats. Spread a little bit of peanut butter on the inside for a 20-minute healthy chew session.

Flirt Pole

If you're not a morning person, the first couple of months with a puppy can be rough. Puppies wake up with tons of excess energy and they need to get it out. Immediately. Flirt poles are a miracle that allow you to make your coffee in peace without a little shadow nipping at your feet. It's basically a giant cat toy but it triggers a dog's instinctual need to hunt and chase after prey. Just swing and dance the felt end around and your puppy will burn off all that energy in a healthy way.

Enzyme Spray

The best advice I received about house training is: Puppies don't make accidents. Owners do. Puppies don't know any better. It's on the parents to watch them like hawks, take them outside every hour or two hours and praise good behavior to reinforce training. But no one is perfect. And carpet stains happen. When it does, it's important to clean with an enzyme spray, such as Nature's Miracle, that breaks down the proteins in urine. That's critical because it will eliminate the smell for a dog. If they start smelling their scent inside, they'll think it's OK to go inside and will revisit the spot.

Training Pouch

It may look like a fanny pack, but you'll want to wear this accessory 24/7 during the first couple months with a puppy. It's important to praise good behavior immediately so a puppy understands the connection. (And nothing motivates a pup more than food.) Keep several different high-value, tasty treats in your handy pouch to praise instantly.


Towels are the unsung hero of raising a puppy. They can be used as furniture protectors, keeping a puppy warm, crate covers and cleaning up messes. Keep a stack of old towels or blankets in reach the first couple of weeks.

Puppy First Aid

Make a space in your medicine cabinet for pups, too. The most common injury puppies get is a cut on the paw so keep loose bandages and gauze handy to wrap a wound. You can DIY your own kit or buy doggie kits online such as the Adventure Dog series from Adventure Medical Kits.