Puppy Playbook

Pre-Pup Preparedness


Thinking about getting a puppy?

Getting a new puppy is a huge decision and commitment. It is the goal of this section to prepare you, your family, your home, and your wallet for a puppy.

Time Commitment

"Do you have time for a puppy"

- How long will the puppy be alone in a day?

  • This is really important to consider especially when considering the potty and kennel training aspect

- 10-15 year commitment

  • A puppy is not only a time commitment early, but a long term commitment that should be taken in considering bringing a puppy home

- Daily time commitment

  • Depending on the puppy's age, a large amount of your day will be devoted to training, walking, feeding, cleaning, and watching your pup
    • Early on (6-16 weeks): Would expect 2-3 hours a day broken up into 5-15 minutes segments
    • As the puppy matures, less time will be devoted to cleaning accidents and your pup will have to go outside to potty less frequently

Financial commitment

Puppies cost money... sometimes a lot, but if planning for a new addition, it is best to be prepared for expected and potentially unexpected costs.

Need help making a budget for your puppy? Click here

Family/House Meeting, Goals, and Expectations

Before getting a puppy, it is important to get the people that will be living with the puppy together to discuss the following:

  • What do you want to do with your puppy?
  • What rules do you have for the pup?
    • Examples: not on furniture, sleeping in bed, etc 
  • Who is responsible for what?
    • Feeding, walking, training etc
      • Remember, everyone wants to walk the puppy...but who will be doing it at 2am?
  • Where will the puppy sleep?
  • Who is financially responsible for pup? 
  • Create a schedule for puppy care
    • Feeding, walking, when will puppy be put to bed?
  • Puppy versus older dogs
    • Older dogs can be great options for those who may have less time on hand to raise a puppy

Best not to assume that everyone has the same expectations or experiences. It is important to keep an open mind and discussion about these topics.

Steps to Selecting Your Puppy


What kind of puppy do I want?

A great place to start is the AKC breed selector. This tool is very helpful to select what type of dog fits with your current lifestyle and what you want to do with your puppy


Remember that there can be individual variations within a breed, but starting with a general characteristics is a great start.

Be sure to check your local laws and regulations (State, local, and housing) about breed restrictions and requirements before picking up your puppy.


Where can I find my dream puppy?

American Kennel Club



- Attend a dog show and talk to breeders



- There are several lovable dogs in shelters, please consider adopting as an alternative to purchasing a puppy

How to shop breeders/rescues

It is important to shop where you are getting your puppy from. Some breeders advertise puppies that have less than ideal situations, and it is important not to support those who have unethical breeding practices or standards.

Click here for a list of questions to ask before purchasing or adopting a puppy.

Avoid these situations

Craigslist or puppy in a "for sale" box

- Typically, these are not experienced breeders

- Suspicious health history and difficult to contact after purchase

- Lack of information should be a red flag


- Be sure to hold anyone claiming to be a rescue to the same level as breeders

- Ask the same questions (listed above) that you would ask a breeder (on where the dog is from, how they obtain their animals, ask about vaccines and health history, and visit the facility) 

- If suspicious, best not to purchase or adopt a dog from that rescue 

How do I choose the puppy?

Selecting a puppy from a litter can be extremely difficult. It is important to keep in mind what the goal is for your puppy (show, companion, sport, etc). 

There are two broad categories to selecting a puppy:

1) Attitude and behavior

2) Conformation and health

For details on how to select a puppy, click here

Things To Do Before Puppy


Puppy Checklist

In addition to buying/adopting your puppy, there is a lot of little things that you will need. For a list of these things, click here.

Puppy Proof the House

Area just for puppy

- Kennel 

  • Playpen surrounding the kennel is a great idea. Hard flooring ideal (wood, tile, etc) for easy cleanup 

Pick up and clean the house

- shoes, socks, books, cleaning supplies, kids toys, electric cords... anything that fits in their mouth

Toxic items

- Common toxins

  • Chocolate, onions, grapes, just to name a few
  • Pet poison control hotline
  • If you think your pet has ingested something that could be toxic or cause an obstruction in the intestines, contact your vet immediately

Pick Out a Local Veterinarian

Things to consider:

- Experience doctors and staff

- Hours of operation

- Distance from home

- Services provided (surgery, emergency, etc)

- Average cost for things such as exam, vaccines, and spay/neuter

- Availability of appointments

Bringing Your Puppy Home


How to bring your puppy home

Getting a puppy is so exciting! However, for your puppy, it's an exciting but difficult day. This is a huge transition for your puppy so it is important to try to make it as smooth as possible with these tips:

  1. Bring your puppy home on a long weekend or when you know you'll have time to focus on him. 
  2. Bring the family if possible to pick up the puppy. Bring collar that is adjustable and leash with you to pick up the puppy.
  3. During the car ride, make sure that someone is either holding the puppy securely in her lap, or the puppy is in a crate. Make sure the window lock is on, as puppies may accidentally roll the windows down and potentially fall out of the car. 
  4. Plan on making frequent stops to go potty. Be sure to pack paper towels, plastic bags, and odor neutralizer, in case the puppy has an accident on the way home.
  5. After picking up the puppy, go straight home. It's important that you get your puppy home and settled as soon as possible.
  6. Once you're home, take the puppy outside so he can go potty. Calmly walk him around his designated bathroom area. 
  7. Make sure that everyone is calm when the puppy arrives home. The best way to get your puppy to warm up to you is to be calm and relaxed. Too many loud noises or voices will likely frighten your puppy.
  8. If there are other pets in the house, don't be in a rush to introduce the puppy to them. Make his first day or two home all about him. 
  9. Set the puppy down inside and let him explore. He may decide to run around a bit, or he may hide and that is okay. Just give him some time and make sure you have rules and a schedule in place for when he gets settled. 

Introduction to current pets

  • Best done a day or two after the puppy comes home
  • Mutual ground- Pick a place outside of the home for the dogs to meet if possible
  • Make sure current pets are up to date on vaccinations
  • Limited exposure early
    • Disease spread (internal parasites and respiratory diseases)
    • Less stressful for all pets if they can warm up to each other slowly

Training Starts Now

The training starts as soon as the puppy comes home. Things like potty training starts right away. Focus on keeping the first few days low stress for the pup as he adjusts to the new home.

Click here for tips on training

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Puppy Playbook

Let's make a budget

Additional Information on preparing a budget for your puppy

 Purchase/Adoption fees- The costs of acquiring a puppy can vary significantly depending on the breed and/or quality.

  • Purchasing a puppy from a breeder,  $100- $3000
  • Adoptions fees can vary, but best to be prepared for $100-$300 

Medical expensesDepending on your area, veterinary care prices will vary. Call the local veterinary hospital for estimated cost of exam, vaccines, and spay/neuter to get a baseline of costs differences between clinics- Emergency/Illness Treatment

  • Just like people, puppies can become sick and require medical treatment, which can become very costly
  • Cost depends on the disease and treatment required, but to be safe, would recommend having a emergency fund for the pup. Some emergency situations can cost several thousands of dollars 

- Pet insurance

  • Insurance is available and can be a valuable asset
  • Carefully read insurance documents before signing to find out what they truly cover
    • Most insurances work on a reimbursement method, meaning you would still have to have the cash up front to pay for services needed

    The Essentials

  • Food, Toys, Kennel, Bowls, Leashes, etc
  • See the puppy checklist below for a complete list of items to purchase

Training/Puppy Class

  • Again, large variation but typical ranges would be $80-$250

Puppy Checklist

Here is a list of items that you will need for your puppy

  •  Crate  
    • Appropriate size
      • Should be able to stand up and turn around
      • Puppy will grow, so adjustable sized kennels, or multiple kennels maybe needed
  • Puppy formula commercial diet
    • Avoid raw dog foods
    • Transitioning diet information 
    • Feed puppy formula diet for 12-18 months
    • See nutrition section
  • Collar, soft adjustable
  • Leash, 4-6ft leather or webbed
  • Bowls for food and water
    • Ceramic or metal
  • Toys, 5-6 chew toys
    • VOHC (Veterinary Oral  Health Council) has great recommendations for rawhide chews and treats
  • Urine stain remover
  • Brush and nail trimmers
    • Ask breeder for recommendations

Questions For Breeders and Rescues

List of questions:

  • Tell me about this breed, or dog, and what you like most about it?
    • Find out how much they know about the dogs they are breeding
  • How long have you been breeding or rescuing dogs?
  • Can you provide me with references to people that have bought/rescued a puppy from you?
  • What requirements do you have for potential owners, and how do you match puppies with their new owners?
    • Some breeders and shelters have contracts for owners if they want to adopt or purchase a pup
  • Can I meet the dam or sire?
    • Very valuable to determine personalities and potentially the pups future attitude
  • Can I visit the puppies where they are raised or housed?
    • If the breeder becomes defensive or does not allow a visit, it maybe because the environment they are in is less than ideal or due to strict bio-security protocols 
  • Have health tests been performed on the parents? Or on the pup itself?
    • Certain breeds have health tests for common eye, heart, or orthopedic diseases
  • How do you socialize your puppies?
    • Socialization is critical to a puppy's development
  • Are the puppies up-to-date on vaccinations?
    • Ask for dates and specific vaccines given and documents so that you can provide them to your vet
  • When can I take the puppy home?
    • Be cautious of breeders that allow the pup to go home before 6 weeks 
    • Typically 6-8 weeks old when they are ready to go to their new home
  • Do you provide a health guarantee and a contract?
    • Important to read the contract fully and ask questions
  • How can we contact you after picking up the puppy?
    • Breeders can be a valuable resource after you have your puppy home
  • If adopting from a shelter, ask why the pet was surrendered or obtained

How to select a puppy from the litter

1) Attitude and Behavior

  • The puppy should be inquisitive and explore new things
  • Be playful and engage litter mates, without being aggressive
  • If you hold the puppy upside down in your arms, they will struggle for a bit, but should settle quickly

2) Confirmation and health

  • Make sure the puppy has a good bite (the teeth meet where they should, no over or under bites)
  • No umbilical hernias
  • Males- both testicles present
  • Healthy coat, bright eyes, and bright attitude