15 things that make being a single puppy owner easier
You'll be so glad to have these products on hand.
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I am a newly-minted puppy mom and proud of it. I’ve wanted a pup of my own for as long as I can remember and after my beloved family dog (whom I got to pick out when I was 13) passed away in February 2020, my desire for my very own only grew. After moving out of NYC and into my own spacious apartment outside of DC, I knew the time had finally come, and I began my search. Despite looking across adoption and rescue sites for my perfect pup, I honestly wasn't really preparing for one. As such, when my sweet little Cash Monkey, a Jack Russell Terrier and Chihuahua mix, popped up on a rescue site on a Monday, I had no idea that by Friday he’d actually be mine. In other words, I was fully unprepared in terms of products to make transitioning into puppy parenting easier. And, as a solo pup parent, that wasn’t exactly ideal.
While I was able to quickly grab just about everything I needed at PetSmart and Target directly after adopting him, in the days that followed, I learned more about what products I needed to tackle single puppy parenting. And so, my online shopping began.
To save you from the same fate and to help you better prepare for your new fur baby, I’m sharing the 15 must-have products for puppies. I assure you, with these in tow, you’ll be that much more prepared for whatever the days, weeks, and months have in store for you and your little one.
1. A life-like puppy pal
When I first got Cash, he would whine and bark if I left him alone in his pen (which, mind you, is only 4-feet by 4-feet) even for a moment. Despite Cash Land (what I call his exercise pen, another item I highly recommend) being spacious and stocked with a cozy crate, a comfy bed, a water bowl, a place to potty, and plenty of space to walk around, it simply wasn’t familiar enough for Cash to feel comfortable in there on his own.
Having written about my fair share of dog products before even getting a puppy of my own, I knew that the SmartPetLove Snuggle Puppy received stellar reviews from parents of puppies who have separation anxiety. And so, I bought one for Cash. I cannot stress this enough: This toy is the absolute best purchase I have made for him. As soon as I turned the heart on (it beats for eight hours or until you turn it off) and placed it in his pen, it seemed like he thought he was back with his littermates, meaning completely comfortable and fully soothed. Just like that, I was able to take a shower, tend to my skincare, and make my bed without him going completely bonkers in the process.
2. Some truly convenient potty training pads
Cash was just a wee little thing when I got him. At just nine weeks old, he wasn’t the slightest bit potty trained, as expected. Fortunately, he immediately took to pee pads rather than my nice area rug. These absorbent pads are designed to protect your floors while also eliminating odors. What’s more, they give off pheromones that draw your pup in, making them less likely to go elsewhere. Within the first two days of having him, Cash was using the pads for 90% of his bathroom breaks, which is pretty incredible for a pup with no training up until that point. He still has accidents here and there, but I more so chalk that up to A) smelling my parent’s dog who I had babysat from time to time and wanting to mark his territory, and B) he's a puppy.
A word to the wise: You will go through these fast. Buy in bulk.
3. Waterproof blankets to protect your couch and/or bed
Cash isn’t completely potty trained. Because of this—and because we spend a lot of time on my beloved green Article couch—I bought a best-selling waterproof blanket known as the PupProtector that I’d heard great things about. I decided to cover my beautiful green couch with a funky cow print throw in the meantime. I got the king-size and ended up getting a second to cover it fully. And I’m so glad I did. The faux fur blanket is super comfy for both humans and puppies and, best of all, it really is waterproof. Cash has had a couple of accidents on it and despite knowing it’s waterproof, I frantically lift it up and feel my couch, preparing for horror, only to be instantly relieved that nothing leaks through. A waterproof blanket is a must.
4. A bottle of Nature’s Miracle stain and odor eliminator
Despite having a waterproof blanket, I still need to clean it as well as other areas of the home where my puppy might have had an accident. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to have a bottle of Nature’s Miracle on hand. This top-rated stain and odor eliminator lifts stains and neutralizes odors so your belongings won’t be ruined and your pup won’t feel inclined to go to the bathroom in the same spot.
For best results, the brand recommends following the directions to a tee, which involves waiting 15 minutes before wiping. However, I’ve definitely not waited that long blotting or wiping and it’s still worked.
5. An astroturf potty pad system
For potty training, I highly recommend this artificial grass training pad. And yes, I know it might seem crazy and over-the-top, but hear me out.
Cash is now 12 weeks old. Since he was given his DHPP vaccine shots earlier than recommended while in the rescue, my vet told me he needed to restart the process. As such, it’s not safe for him to go to the bathroom (or on walks) outside where other dogs may have been, as it could put him at risk for contracting parvo (a virus your vet can explain more about). Thankfully, he gets his last vaccine protecting him against such this week. However, until then (and since he hit the 10-week mark), I rely on this artificial potty pad to get him used to the idea of grass. Since getting this pad, I’ve removed the two regular Wee-Wee pads from my two bathrooms, as well as the kitchen. Now, he just has this artificial grass pad by the door and a pad in his exercise pen.
Here’s why it matters: The more pads you have laying around your house—convenient as they may be for clean-up—the more your pup will think it’s okay to go to the bathroom throughout your home. By creating minimal designated spaces to go, you can more effectively potty train your pup.
As for cleaning this faux grass pad, it’s not as bad as you might think. Like the classic Wee-Wee pads, it’s designed to eliminate odors and absorb the liquid waste—it even has a drawer to collect any waste. For the easiest clean-up, I’ve cut a Wee-Wee pad to fit into the drawer to absorb what does fall through. It’s also recommended that the pad be rinsed in the shower once a week and the pad itself should be replaced every three to four months.
6. A Nylabone made specifically for pups
This soft puppy-specific teething bone has been a godsend for Cash. Since he's in his prime puppy stage, my little monkey likes to nip at just about anything, whether it’s the frame of my metal-and-glass coffee table (oy vey!), the base of my couch (so naughty!), or (gasp) my fingers, toes, and pretty much any skin he can get his teeth on. While nipping is totally normal for pups, it’s a habit that definitely needs to be broken. And, one of the best ways to do so is to replace what they’re chewing on with something more appropriate—like this bone.
What I love most about this Nylabone bone is that it has a ring in the middle that makes it easier to hold. Sometimes Cash likes me to hold his bone for him, and this gives me the best grip on it when he really starts to gnaw. As for Cash, I’m pretty sure he’s most fond of the chicken flavor.
7. A pack of Best Bully Sticks
When Cash gets bored of his Nylabone—which inevitably happens after about 15 to 20 minutes—he typically moves on to gnawing on something he shouldn’t be. When I really need to focus on writing or getting something done around the house, I give him a Bully Stick to chew on as a distraction. These sticks, which are dried bull penis (gross!), are like crack for dogs. They will sit and gnaw on them for literal hours if you let them. Because of this, they’re an absolute must in my book. You do have to keep an eye on them with them, just make sure that once the stick gets down to about three inches long, you take it from them so that it doesn’t become a choking hazard. But that takes a while. For reference, Cash has been chewing on the same 6-inch Bully Stick for the past three weeks and it’s only down to about five inches, so they last—which is great considering they’re not cheap.
A word to the wise: Always buy made-in-the-USA bully sticks, as they’ve been proven to splinter less and have fewer additives than their international counterparts.
8. A portable kennel
While I don’t like to crate Cash for hours on end, at night, given he’s not potty trained and likes to chew on everything in sight, I often have no choice. Because of this—and because it’s good to get your pup familiar with a crate in the event they need one for travel or going to the vet—he sleeps in his crate at night.
What I love most about this Petmate crate is that it has a seatbelt strap feature that makes it easy to buckle it into a car seat for maximum safety. As fun as it is to have your pup roaming free on long car rides, it’s definitely not very safe. That’s not to say you can never have your dog out in the car, especially when driving with others, just that it’s helpful to have a safe space for them within it, too.
9. A padded harness
It might be common to hook leashes to collars but when it comes to puppies, their tiny necks are more susceptible to damage and pain from being led by their neck. That’s why a harness is a must. If you have a tiny pup like Cash, you’ll love the Puppia Soft Dog Harness which is sold in six sizes and over a dozen collars. The cozy harness fits him perfectly and has an adjustable chest belt, padded neck, and secure back D-ring for easy leading. I pair mine with a Lupine 6-foot Dog Leash.
10. A cozy (and sturdy) pet carrier
One thing that has changed the most about my life since getting Cash—apart from, you know, falling head over heels in love with my fur child—is that it’s no longer possible to just run out the door without a care in the world. Now, I have to make sure that Cash is ready to go, too. While I initially carried him in his crate, that quickly became too cumbersome and restricted me from holding anything else when I rushed out the door, forcing me to take multiple trips each time. As a result, I searched for a solution.
At first, I got a best-selling puppy sling off Amazon. It worked but lacked utility, as it offers little to no storage outside of a place to put your pup, which meant I’d have to carry my own bag, too. But after discovering the Wild One’s Travel Carrier, I found it's a much better option. The breathable mesh bag has handles and a detachable messenger shoulder strap for easy carrying. It’s completely enclosed and, when opened, features a fold-out mat for your pup to lounge on. As much as I love it for Cash, I love it for myself even more, as it also features two hidden back pockets and a front zip pocket, so I can put my phone, wallet, and keys in it and don’t have to be weighed down by several bags wherever I go.
11. A smart speaker with a screen
The very first night I got Cash, he whined and whined within his crate. To soothe his tiny little soul, I started singing to him (and y’all, I can’t sing). At some point during my delirious fatigue, I remembered that I had an Echo Show right next to my bed and asked her to play lullaby music. The next thing I knew, my room was filled with soft acoustic Disney lullabies and Cash was completely quiet. It typically takes him a few minutes to get settled, but as soon as that second song comes on (he loves “Colors of the Wind”), he’s the best little sleeper.
Now, whenever he becomes a hooligan, I ask Alexa to turn on his lullaby music and he calms right down. It’s a godsend. What’s more, it can be used for video calls with friends and family who are just dying to meet your pup, as well as to set reminders for meal times and when to give monthly heartworm medication. In that way, it’s the ultimate puppy co-parent when you don’t have one.
12. A cozy dog bed
As much as you may want to snuggle with your pup at all hours, it’s not always possible thanks to work and other obligations. Thankfully, cuddle beds exist. This donut-shaped bed has a bolster that your pup can snuggle into to feel held and comforted. Plus, it has a built-in blanket, keeping them nice and warm. Cash, for one, is obsessed. And so am I, as it’s one of the prettiest dog beds I’ve seen. We have it in the Tide Pool color.
13. A cozy sweater (or a few)
Whenever I take Cash out in his carrier, I make sure to put a sweater on him so that he doesn’t get cold during the winter months—he’s tiny (and prone to shivering), after all. While putting his sweaters on is a bit of a challenge sometimes as he likes to bite them and resist, once they’re on you can tell he’s cozy and pleased. His everyday sweater is the Goldpaw Stretch Fleece in Blue Plaid, though, when he’s feeling fancy and photogenic, he also has the Max-Bone Mickey Mouse x Keith Haring Hoodie and Christian Cowan X Max-Bone Jumper.
14. A portable playpen
Sometimes you might just want to be able to go out. While you’ll undoubtedly want to bring your pup along, probably don't want to carry them the entire time. And, if they’re not fully trained, putting them on the open ground may not be an option. Fortunately, pack-and-play puppy playpens exist.
Whenever I go to my parents’ or sister’s house, I bring this playpen with me so that I don’t have to focus 100% on Cash to ensure he’s safe. The spacious playpen pops up straight out of the portable carrying case and has mesh windows on all sides, as well as a top and front opening. Believe me, it comes in super handy.
15. A place to put all their toys
Cash is spoiled—there’s no doubt about it. Before getting him, my apartment was always pretty tidy. After I got him, however, it became littered with squeaky toys (he’s obsessed with his Lamb Chop toys, bones (he also loves Nylabone’s Bacon & Peanut Butter FlexiChew bones, balls, puzzles (specifically, the Outward Hound ones keep him occupied), and the like. I had to find a solution. Not wanting to get a plain bin (I have an aesthetic, okay?), I searched for a durable, colorful option. I ended up landing on Scout’s Junque Trunk in the pretty blue print, Sweet Tile of Mine. The spacious bin fits all of his favorite toys while adding a bold pop of color to my living room. Best of all, it’s made with all-weather, mold- and odor-resistant fabric, so it won’t get ruined when slobbery toys stack up.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.