10 things you need for your new Labrador Retriever puppy
Bringing a new Labrador puppy home is both exciting and terrifying. Puppies are so cute; you cannot help but fall in love with them immediately. Then you get them home and realize just how much work they are! Like human babies, Lab puppies require 24-hour care for those first few weeks. And, also like human babies, there are numerous supplies and essentials you will need to raise your puppy into a loving, responsible dog. So, what do you need to buy for your new Lab puppy?
Below is a shopping list for your new Labrador Retriever puppy. You will not need everything right away, but puppies grow fast so you do need to be prepared.
As a professional retriever trainer, I have used and tested many training products over the years. Some good, some not so good. In this post, I share what we use for our training and products we believe are a good value or good investment as you train or maintain training for your retriever. When possible, I include links to the product. Some of these links may be affiliate links in which I am paid a small commission, but all opinions and recommendations are my own. Learn more.
Checklist of things you need ready the day you bring your puppy home
Before you head to the breeder to pick up you new companion, be sure that you have these puppy essentials ready to go.
A crate is essential for every dog owner. It is infinitely harder to house break a puppy without a crate, and a crate will also allow you to have a few minutes or a few hours of time where you do not have to watch every move your puppy makes.
I recommend that you start with a small, puppy sized crate. This is important because a small crate will keep your pup from moving around a lot and make it more unlikely that he/she will have an accident in the crate. The larger the crate, and the more the puppy can move around inside the crate, the more likely they will have an accident in the crate. For obvious reasons, you want to avoid these accidents.
As your puppy grows, you will want to increase the size of the crate.
Additionally, the crate should feel like a den for your puppy and dens are small spaces where a dog can feel safe and comfortable. Put a small hand towel in the crate to absorb any accidents and keep a bottle of Angry Orange Pet Odor Eliminator or other cleaner nearby.
We like to slowly increase the size of the crate as the dog grows. We talk extensively on crates and crate training your puppy in this post.
Puppy crates can be found online, in big-box stores or pet stores. Plastic crates are best for puppies since they contain any messes and are easy to wash out. I do not recommend metal or fence crates because they do not allow dogs privacy and a place to escape that plastic ones do. Your goal should be to teach you puppy that his/her crate is a good, safe place for them to sleep or get away. Learn how to do that here.
A collar is important for your puppy for many reasons.
- It can help people identify your dog and return him/her to you should your pup get lost.
- The sooner you introduce a collar, the easier it is for your puppy to adjust. All dogs require an adjustment period to wearing a collar, so it is just easier to take care of this while the pup is small.
- You need a way to catch your puppy if he/she is trying to run away from you, like after he/she has had an accident on your rug or carpet. A collar gives you something to grab on to.
- Raising a puppy that is obedient and a joy to be around starts with control. You need to teach your puppy early on that you are the one in control and a collar is just one piece of that puzzle.
We like to put a collar on our puppies the day we bring them home from the breeder. A simple nylon one works great. If you are going to personalize the collar, we recommend that you do not put your dog’s name on the collar. Instead keep it simple and say something like, “Reward if found, call 111-111-1111.” This will help encourage the finder to bring your puppy back instead of keeping him/her.
Food and food dishes
Of course, your puppy will need food, and you should give this some thought before you bring your puppy home. If your breeder feeds a quality food, it is often helpful to continue that food. Your puppy will be adjusting to a lot of things that first few weeks and a new food is just another stress for them. Often breeders will send you home with a small bag of food, but that will not last long so if you can have an extra bag already at home you will be prepared.
While your puppy will not care what type of dish you feed him/her out of, there are some features that we find helpful for dog food dishes.
Puppies naturally move their dish around as they are eating, especially if the dish has a flat bottom that easily pushes around the floor. We have found that dishes with a non-slip bottom can help so that your puppy is not chasing around his food dish.
Make sure that it is large enough. If you have a normal sized Lab, he/she will grow to be between 50 – 80 pounds when full grown. And since dogs grow fast, that means they will likely grow to that size within a year to a year and a half. Almost all dogs we train eat between 4 -6 cups of dog food a day. So, make sure that your dish is large enough to accommodate this many cups.
It is vitally important that your puppy have access to clean water for drinking. Again, your puppy will not care what type of water dish you have, but only that he/she has one. With the puppies we raise, we have found that it can be challenging to keep a small water dish full, so we prefer to use these 2-gallon water dishes. They are easy to fill and allow us to only have to fill them a couple times a week instead of several times a day.
A six-foot lead or Flexi lead
While your puppy is unlikely to run off during the first few days after you bring him/her home, as he/she gains confidence puppies tend to range more and more. We suggest that you introduce a lead to your puppy as they start to grow in confidence and walk further from you when outside.
There are two great reasons to do this early on. First it teaches your puppy how to handle the pressure of not being able to go wherever they want whenever they want. And it keeps your puppy from developing a habit of running away from you.
A Flexi-lead works especially well if you want to give your puppy a little more freedom to go do his potty business but still keep control. Just hook the lead to his/her nylon collar for now, but as your pup grows, you will want to introduce a chain collar.
Puppies need toys. If you do not give them toys that they CAN chew and play with, they will chew on your sofa leg, or a book or a blanket or anything else they can find. So, purchase some good durable puppy chew toys. But watch your pup carefully. As they get older and stronger, they will be able to rip apart cloth toys and ingest them. Or they will chew rubber toys into small pieces and eat them. When your pup gets strong enough to destroy toys, it is time to take away the puppy toys and give them only dog toys designed for older, larger dogs or quality rawhides that they can chew that will not cause digestive problems.
Stay away from rope toys. Many puppies have managed to ingest strings and ropes requiring surgery to remove them.
If your plan is for your Labrador puppy to become a hunting or competition dog, you should have a puppy sized bumper. You can start working on retrieving with your new pup within a few days of bringing him/her home. Learn more about teaching your puppy to fetch in this post.
I recommend that you section off a small portion of your home and not let your puppy have full run of the entire house. It is vital that you are carefully watching your puppy when he/she is out of his/her crate. If you are trying to housebreak your puppy, he/she must not be unsupervised. Learn more about housebreaking your Lab puppy in this post.
To section off a part, it can be helpful to have some child-gates available or an area of your home that you can close doors.
Supplies to add as the puppy grows
As your puppy grows in both size and knowledge, it is important that you learn to grow and adjust with him/her. Your puppy needs you to teach and guide him/her so that he/she can become a responsible, well-adjusted family and hunting dog. This means that you need to show your puppy where the boundaries are and what is and is not allowed. To do this, you will need a few more tools.
It is natural for your puppy to start testing the limits as they grow, get bigger and stronger and bolder. This is often when we see dogs that are running away from their owners, playing keep-a-way when retrieving and just basically being naughty.
A lot of this could be avoided with the use of a check cord. A check cord is just a long rope with a clasp on the end that is attached to your puppy’s collar or a chain collar. The check cord gives you the ability to allow your puppy to roam a little but still gives you the ability to control your puppy and make sure that he/she comes when called. Yes, a check cord can be cumbersome and often a pain to use, but it only takes one or two times of your puppy running away from you to make it worth it. If you have ever chased a dog around and around a yard trying to catch him/her, you know what I am talking about.
Put a check cord on your puppy and allow them to drag it around with them. This alone is a great lesson for a dog. Dragging the weight is a type of pressure that they will need to learn to deal with. Occasionally, step on the rope and allow your dog to feel the pressure of being stopped and controlled. These sound like such minor things, but you would be surprised how much more well-adjusted your puppy will be just from learning these minor lessons.
As your puppy gets stronger, it will get more and more difficult to control your puppy with a lead just hooked up to a nylon collar. That is because the pressure of a lead on a nylon collar is distributed around the puppy’s entire neck and therefore is not enough pressure to really control your puppy.
As you notice that your puppy is getting harder to control, is pulling you around or dragging you down the street, you need to move to a chain or prong collar. Actually, it would be best if you changed to a chain or prong collar long before this becomes an issue. Remember, it is always easier to fix problems when they are small rather than waiting for them to become huge problems.
A chain collar, on the other hand, allows you to make a sharp jerk or tug that will get your puppy’s attention and show that you are in control.
If your dog’s neck is particularly thick or your dog is especially hard to control, consider using a prong collar.
Larger bumpers for retrieving dogs
As your dog gets larger, you will want to move away from the puppy bumper and start using regular sized retrieving bumpers. We prefer to use plastic or rubber bumpers since they do not get as dirty or smelly as the canvas ones. They also last a lot longer and can be used for both water and land retrieves. Learn all about the different bumpers used for training hunting dogs here.
Make sure that you use white or white/black bumpers for your young dog. Orange is a color that is difficult for retrievers to see, so that color should not be used for young dogs that are just learning about retrieving and hunting. Save the orange ones for advanced dogs working on blind retrieves.
Final thoughts on What do I need to buy for a Lab puppy?
There are many things that you will need for your new puppy both now and in the future. Take some time to prepare before you bring your puppy home so that you will avoid buying things on impulse that you may or may not need.
If you are planning on using your puppy as a hunting or competition dog, check out 6 vital tools every gun dog trainer needs.
If you really want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting this year</strong> but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I am here to help! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.