Bringing to you our personal dog-parenting experience with tips, tricks, recommendations, recipes, and all around knowledge that we've collected over the years

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Essentials Checklist for New Dog Parents

Dogs are amazing and becoming a dog owner is a huge responsibility! There is a lifelong commitment that is involved and being a first time dog owner can be overwhelming. I remembered when I was rushing to gather all the materials needed for Cooper. Whether you are bringing home a puppy or adopting a shelter pup, I have compiled a list of the basic essentials you would need to get started. So don’t fret too much, everything will be okay! 


REgular veterinary checkups

If you are bringing home a puppy or adopting a dog, make sure to take them to the veterinary for initial checkups. Don't be afraid to ask questions regarding your pup during the visit. Your vet will be able to update you any medications or vaccines that your dog may need during the checkup.

  • Primary Veterinarian
  • Flea/Tick/Heartworm Medications
  • Updated Core Vaccinations (Rabies/Bordetella/Parvo/Distemper/Hepatitis)
  • Set Up an Annual Checkup
  • Keep the Nearest 24/7 Vet Clinic Info for Emergency

Dog Food & Treats

With so many brands out there to choose from, finding the right dog food can be difficult. Keep in mind of your pup’s life stage and find a food that offers the right blend of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Be sure to read the nutritional label and look for meat, fish, or any single-source protein as the first ingredients. Don’t be afraid to talk to your local pet store or veterinarian for further food recommendation. For treats, it’s usually best to choose treats that are low calories with fewer than 5 ingredients. I prefer to get single-ingredient treats like freeze-dried liver/heart/beef/etc. Check Dog Food Advisor when you're doing your dog food research and keep an eye out for any recalls.

  • Dog Food
  • Dog Treats
  • Dog Chews

Dog Bed & Crate

Create a space where your pup can sleep and feel comfortable in. A crate can provide a sense of security for your pup. Make sure to keep it a positive space for them where they can go and relax. Add a nice orthopedic bed in their crate or sleeping area for maximize comfort. We typically have about 6 beds total for Cooper and he would often go to any one of them to chill. In addition, Cooper loves it when his sleeping/chill area has blankets as well. 

  • Dog Bed(s)
  • Blanket(s)
  • Crate/Kennel

Dog Gate

Since you are bringing home a new pup that doesn't have a clue about boundaries in your home, getting a gate will help keep them safe, happy and properly contained. This is definitely great for puppies since they're usually very curious and would want to get into everything, having a dog gate will allow you to create barriers to prevent them from accessing off-limits area and keep them separated when necessary.

  • Dog Gate
  • Exercise Pen


Keep your pup occupy with toys that are long-lasting and fun! Something that squeaks are always a winner for Cooper. If you want to bring it up a notch and stimulate their brain, get a few puzzle toys that will further challenge them mentally while keeping them occupied. If you discover that your dog likes ball then get them a ball launcher for some fetch time fun.

  • Rubber Toys
  • Squeaky/Crinkly Toys
  • Puzzle Toys
  • Treat Puzzles

Dog Poop Bags & Refills

It is important to always pick up after your pup’s mess and it is part of being a responsible dog owner. Make sure you're getting poop bags that are durable and dispose them properly. As an added bonus, it’s better if the poop bags are compostable or biodegradable! Be sure to always carry a poop bag with you at all time because you may never know when it will be needed. Get a small poop bag canister or pouches to keep it all in one place.

  • Poop Bags
  • Refills
  • Poop Bag Pouch/Canister

Food & Water Bowls

Provide a small area where your pup can go for water when they’re thirsty and where they can wait for their food to be serve. Have a bowl for food and a bowl for water (constantly make sure that there are water readily available for access). Get a mat as well that is water absorption to prevent any potential slippery mess. Don't forget to frequently wash their bowls as well as it can get stained and grimy over time.

  • Water Bowl
  • Food Bowl
  • Water Absorption Mat 

Collar (Or Harness) & Leash

Keep your pup safe by having a durable collar and leash whenever you take your dog outside. A leash will help guide your pup away from danger, while a collar will help to control your dog and serves as an identifier. These are important tools when it comes to training and bonding with your dog. I preferred a 4 foot leash as I like to keep Cooper close to me, a typical leash is about 6-foot. When looking for a leash, I recommend going for one that is 1 inch in width that is either flat or rope. Go for a leash with a lobster clasp or carabiner for better durability. For recall training, use a 20-foot leash. If you’re the type to hike a lot, I suggest getting a 6 foot leash and a harness.

  • Flat Buckle Collar
  • Harness
  • 6 or 4-foot Leash (20-foot for recall training)

Identification Tag & Microchip

On a collar, there should be a simple ID tag with your dog's name and a contact in case they go missing. If you're one to switch tags on collars, get a small carabiner and make sure that your dog's collar always has some type of ID tag attached. As an extra protection and identifier, make sure that your pup is microchipped with updated contact information.

  • ID Tag w/ Contact Info
  • Updated Microchip
  • Small Carabiner for ID Tag

Stain and Odor Remover

Puppies can be messy at first before they're properly potty trained, so be sure to clean up any messes that they make thoroughly with an enzyme-based cleaner. This will also come in handy in case your dog expresses any bodily fluid and needs a good cleanup.

  • Stain and Odor Remover Spray

Continue to keep your dog happy and healthy by grooming them regularly. This means that aside from giving your dog regular bath and weekly brushing, it also includes brushing their teeth, cleaning their ears, inspecting their body for abnormalities, and trimming their nails. Start grooming by incorporating a routine and ease them into it with one thing at a time. 


  • Grooming Comb (good for all fur type)
  • Slicker Brush (good for double-coat) 
  • Baby Wipes/Wet Wipes (get unscented)
  • Toothpaste/Toothbrush
  • Dremal (Rotary Tool) for Nails
  • Small Scissor for Trimming Paw Fur
  • Dog Shampoo/Conditioner 
  • Dog Ear Cleaner Solution
  • Paw Cream 
  • Hot Spot Spray

When I take Cooper out for long walks or city exploration, I usually carry quite a few handy stuff with me. In my customized tote bag from Snapfish, here's what I usually carry:

Outdoor Supplies

  • Collapsible Water Bowl
  • Water Bottle
  • Baby/Wet Wipes
  • Extra Leash
  • A Ball for Fetch
  • Dog Poop Bag (with an extra poop bag roll)
  • Treat Bag/Pouch (filled)
  • Small First Aid Kit

Well there you have it, a list of all the essentials one would need to get started on being a dog parent. Hopefully this works as a checklist to guide you into dog parenthood! But it seems that I forgot to mention one last thing on the list and that would be to...


Aside from all the stuff you would need, don't forget to capture memories through your phone or camera of all the in-between moments. I love documenting my life with Cooper and I am happy to have photos to reflect on of all our past experiences together, the good and the bad. It also makes home feels more full when I can use precious captured memories and turn them into tangible objects to reminisce. One of my favorite memories was the time that we drove to Yosemite National Park to catch a sunrise at Glacier Point. Cooper and I sat together while overlooking the sun rising behind Half Dome. I was able to turn one of my favorite photos ever into a canvas print using Snapfish. So definitely be sure to snap some photos and cherish all the memories.

Remember that aside from providing your dog with all the essentials, don't forget to give them your unconditional love, respect, and patience. Go forth and be a good, responsible dog parent!


This post was in collaboration with Snapfish about the importance of pets in our lives and documenting our experiences with them. Cooper is such an important part of my life and I can't imagine not having him around. Know that when you do get a dog, they're along with us for the journey so be sure to document your life with them! Many of the customized products (canvas, mug, and tote bag) in this post came from our past adventures and experiences. If you would like to share your past experiences with your pet through customized products, visit Snapfish and use PETS40 for 40% off (expires 9/30/2018). All opinions and photos are my own.