Shopping for Supplies
The pet supply store is doggie wonderland. You could spend a fortune on an endless array of items for your dog there. It's best to do some research before you walk down those aisles, bedazzled by the amazing plethora of pet products. Throughout your dog's life, you'll have fun spoiling your new best friend with toys, treats, and stylish accessories. For starters, though, just concentrate on the things you'll really need. Before embarking upon that shopping spree, make a list of the basics so you won't bust your budget on unnecessary items.
For the small dog, a lightweight nylon ribbon collar of woven or braided nylon with a stainless steel buckle works well, as does an adjustable nylon snap collar with a plastic lock-and-release closure. Like cat safety collars, some snap collars will break away if your pup gets stuck on something. Don't spend a lot of money on your baby's first collar, as it may be quickly out-grown. For comfort for most toy breeds, it should be very narrow — around half to three-quarters of an inch in width. To get the proper fit, measure the pup's neck and add two inches. If it doesn't hang loose after you close it and you can fit two fingers underneath it, you've got the right size. Check frequently to make sure the pup has not outgrown it. You'll also need a fine-mesh stainless steel or nylon training collar once the pup begins its training, soon after you bring it home. Also known as choke collars, when used humanely and correctly these should never choke your dog.
For safety's sake, your dog will need an ID tag to fasten to that new collar. These come in small sizes, in plastic or stainless steel, and are usually available at pet supply stores or grooming salons where you purchase and pay for these items, then send in a form and have the tag mailed to you with-in two weeks. There are also do-it-yourself plastic tags and nylon ID collars that come embroidered with your dog's name and your telephone number. Another way to guarantee that your dog will be permanently identifiable is to have your vet implant a microchip when it goes for its shots.
Microchipping is the best way to protect your dog from becoming homeless, with all the heartbreak that ensues. The procedure hurts no more than getting a shot, involving the injection of a tiny capsule — about the size of a grain of rice — under the skin. A scanner reads the digital information on that chip, and whoever finds your dog can call the microchip company for your identifying information so your dog can be safely returned.
Woven or braided nylon leashes come in six-foot and four-foot lengths and should be the same width as the pup's collar. (Wider leashes are too heavy for smaller breeds.) For walking around the block, the four-foot variety is fine, while the six-footer is better for obedience work. Leather leashes, which cost quite a bit more, also come in narrow widths. If it's thin enough, the six-foot length works well for training a small dog. Another popular variation is a retractable lead that reels in and out of its plastic handle. Once you get the hang of its brake-and-lock system, these enable you to walk your dog at your side or give it plenty of room to romp in the woods or at the beach.
Your small dog won't need huge dishes, but they should be big enough to contain enough food and water to meet its needs. When filled with water, extra-large dishes are dangerous for tiny dogs because they could fall in and not be able to get out. Stainless steel, plastic, or ceramic crockery are all dishwasher-safe. They should be stable in case the puppy decides to play with them instead of eating or drinking. A stainless steel water cup that attaches to the crate door is also a good idea for times when the pup is home alone.
Besides the gentle and reassuring welcome you and your family will provide, the most important thing your pup or adult dog will need is a warm safe place of its own, preferably a fiberglass or wire crate. A pup is an active, tiny presence underfoot, so you will need this place of respite as much as the puppy does. (Stepping or sitting on this little creature could cripple or kill it, so it's vital to know where that pup is at all times.)
Like the scent markers you will use to ease the transition, the crate taps into another age-old need in your dog: the den instinct inherited from its wolf ancestors. The crate will be its safety zone, away from the hustle and bustle of the household between playtime, feeding, and potty calls, as well as a soothing place to sleep at night. Pad it softly with a washable mat and a towel or blanket that carries your scent. The crate should be big enough for the pup to stretch out, turn around, and stand up in, but not too roomy. Because the pup will be transferring its primary bond to you, its new caregiver, the best place for its crate at night will be right next to your bed. This will also make it easier to make those nighttime potty runs.
Because yours is a very small dog, the crate it uses for solitude and sleeping can also serve as its travel crate. The most popular fiberglass crates are sold unassembled, so be sure to put it together before you bring that baby home. Make sure it closes securely and does not have any sharp edges that could hurt the pup. Line it with an imitation sheepskin or cotton pillow-type mat to make it comfy, and buy a spare for when that one is in the wash. Crates are priced according to size — another benefit of owning a small dog!
If you are planning to have an indoor potty area for your small dog, either during the initial housebreaking period or as a permanent arrangement, have these supplies on hand:
Housebreaking pads are disposable, highly absorbent, and treated with pheromones that act as scent markers, directing your pup to relieve itself in the right spot if you are paper-training indoors.
Newspapers — and lots of them! The area where you put them down can be reduced as your little one catches on.
Dog litter (scent-treated and featuring larger particles than kitty litter) if you are using a litterbox for indoor housetraining.
A low-sided litterbox, allowing the pup to get in and out with ease.
A baby gate, to keep your untrained puppy out of areas that are off-limits in your home.
Stain-and-odor-removing cleaners — because accidents will happen! The best ones feature enzymes that digest bacteria rather than just covering up the odor. Low-sudsing, they can also be used in your carpet-cleaning machine.
A pooper-scooper for potty patrol outdoors.
Disposable poop bags, a must at home and wherever you go with your little pet.
Pheromones are naturally produced chemicals that give off scented signals capable of changing mood and behavior. The pheromones in your dog's urine give other dogs information about territory, gender, and even rank. For example, when a female dog is in heat, she releases pheromones detectable by male dogs in your neighborhood (and a few miles beyond!).
In addition to its crate, it's nice to have a bed for your dog, as a casual resting place and to discourage it from sleeping on the furniture where it can shed or someone might accidentally sit on it. Dog beds come in a wide variety of styles. For a puppy, the most important features are safety and ease of cleaning.
You will sometimes want to confine your little dog to the kitchen or to some other puppy-proofed room, so one or two plastic mesh pressure-mounted gates will make life easier for you and safer for the pup. They come in different widths, adjustable to fit in any doorway or stairway without having to install any hardware. Beyond stability, the most important feature of such a gate is the size of the mesh openings. Avoid wooden accordion-style or vertical slat gates. The small pup's head could get caught between those slats, and it could be strangled.
Your little bundle of joy should not be allowed to bounce about in the car when you travel. You wouldn't dream of letting a small child ride without their car seat or safety belt, and your puppy shouldn't, either. Initially, you can use the crate, safely placed on the floor or on the seat, restrained with the seat belt. When the puppy gets a bit larger, you can fit it with its own car seat complete with safety belt. You can also buy a seat belt made just for dogs, available in a wide range of sizes.
Lightweight foldable wire pens — called exercise or x-pens by dog show folks — open into six- or eight-sided play areas for your dog. They are available in a wide variety of sizes, starting as small as two feet by two feet. They can be used indoors or out when you want to keep the dog safely confined and are available in wire or plastic. Like playpens for human babies, they come in handy for home and travel.
Buying toys for a puppy is like buying toys for a human baby. Keep it simple. You want to avoid small parts that could come off and choke the youngster. Stuffed toys are fun, but watch out for those that squeak — some breeds will try to “kill” squeaky toys and rip that squeaker out, possibly swallowing it in the process. Chew toys made of nylon or hard rubber, including those you can stuff with puppy-size treats, are a safe bet and will be useful when your pup is teething. Rubber balls are fun to chase and help your puppy learn how to retrieve, while foam balls are unsafe because they can be shredded and swallowed. Your new puppy is too young for real bones or hooves, and you should avoid rawhide unless you can supervise. A piece ingested by your pup could cause it to choke. Rope toys also require supervision, and tug-of-war games with feisty pups encourage aggressive behavior.
For the small pup, you will need a gentle slicker brush for medium-or long-coated breeds or a rubber curry for smooth coats. The slicker comes with wire bristles embedded in a rubber backing. For long or fluffy coats, a double-sided stainless steel comb will be needed as well. Small-size nail clippers like those used for cats work best on toy and tiny breeds, and a jar of styptic powder is a good idea in case you should nick a nail. A mild tearless shampoo, crème rinse, some ear wash, and cotton balls will round out your basic grooming kit.
If you got your dog from a breeder, you will probably go home with a starter bag of the food used at the kennel. Even if you decide to switch to another food, you will need to wean the pup slowly over a five-day period to prevent stomach upsets. Start by mixing only a spoonful or two of the new food and build up the ratio from there until you are serving only the food you prefer.
Accidents are bound to happen with any new dog. Using enzymes that actually digest the dirt- and odor-causing bacteria, this type of cleaner is best for removing stains from floors, carpets, and upholstery. It also removes the odor of urine and feces, scent markers that will keep your dog returning to relieve itself on the same spot next time.