Buying Guide for a New Puppy or Rescue Dog – 2020

Congratulations on bringing a new family member into your home!

Puppy Loki - Puppy Tutor Dog Training

Puppy Loki Before I Met Him

What an exciting time for you. If you haven’t already considered it, I recommend starting with force-free training as soon as possible. The benefits of early training cannot be overstated.

While this is an exciting time, it can also be an expensive one. That’s why I often call what I do as “dog training on the cheap”. Because the financial impact of a dog can become immense, I try to keep that cost down for my clients as much as I can. I don’t ask them to buy anything that I don’t think that they will actually need.

When I do make purchase requests, I try to suggest the best pricing option I am aware of. Usually, this means directing people to Amazon. On average, they tend to have the lowest pricing.

Still, sometimes, cheapest is not always best. If appropriate, I’ll recommend a higher-quality, more expensive item, and then offer a cheaper substitute of lesser (but still acceptable) quality if your budget can’t handle it.

Now, let’s go shopping for your new canine companion!

Space Management

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that your new dog will not arrive already trained. If so, then you can’t expect your dog to stay out of trouble.

The way to deal with an untrained dog is through space management. It will be best if you keep your pup at least within view at all times. That means restricting movement to where you are. If you have a puppy that needs potty training, this is very important.

The way to deal with an untrained dog is through space management. Click To Tweet

Lugh Enjoying His Nylabone Durachew - Puppy Tutor Dog Training

I recommend gates to block off areas of the home. My favorite ones have built-in doors that make moving through them easy for you. Some even have cat doors. If you are really on a budget, you could use movable boards (maybe even cardboard) to help keep your dog in your area.

There will be times that your dog needs to hang out quietly in her or his own space. This is what a crate (this one is for giant breeds), or kennel, is for. Train it to be a safe space. Never use it as a place for a timeout. When your dog needs peace and quiet, this should become the go-to space for that. Keep in mind that you will need to kennel train your new pup for this to work as it should.

To make your crate more comfortable for your dog, consider cheap blankets rather than expensive dog beds. You don’t yet know if your pup is going to destroy them. Plus, blankets are easier to clean.

I also recommend crate training for when you leave the home. It can prevent accidental injury and/or destruction of property. Thanks to proper crate training, your dog can learn to enjoy hanging out in the crate while you are away.

If you have a puppy, I recommend setting up a larger containment area that includes the crate. That area will serve like a playpen until she or he is ready (“trustworthy”) to roam a wider area. This could be a room (like a kitchen with linoleum flooring) blocked in with gates.

Walking Gear

Lugh Modeling His Harness

I have a more in-depth article over here regarding walking gear for your dog. Here, I’ll hit my top 3 recommendations.

Before I start, I want to say that walking should be fun and enriching for your dog. You should never use tools designed to cause pain in order to force compliant behavior. So, tools you should never use includes all choke chains, prong collars, and shock collars.

Instead, consider tools that are safe for your new pup. First, you want a basic flat collar or a martingale collar. If you opt for a martingale, remember that it needs to be fitted correctly. When it is closed all the way, you need to have room for a finger or two underneath it (just like a regular collar). If you are concerned about your dog slipping a collar, then use two of them. If you clip your leash to the lower collar, the top one will act as a lock to keep it in place.

Speaking of a leash, for walking, I recommend just a standard flat leash of about 6’. However, you may want to consider a little longer one so that your dog has room to sniff around. Remember that sniffing on a walk is great for enrichment.

I would prefer that you attach your leash to a front- and back-clip harness rather than a collar on a walk. My personal favorite is the Freedom Harness. A generic option will do if the price is too steep. If by chance the dog does see something and pull toward it, you don’t have to worry about pressure on the throat. If you have a puller, then you will want to clip the leash on the front clip. This will take away some of the leverage the dog has otherwise. Once the dog is good at walking on a loose leash, then you can switch it to the back clip.


A quick tip: All toy play should be supervised. You don’t want your new buddy to ingest parts big enough to trigger a trip to the expensive emergency vet. Throw away any toys that start to get worn down. Better safe than sorry.

Loki with His Kong Wobbler - Puppy Tutor Dog Training

My favorite dog toy of all time is the classic Kong. You can put a little peanut butter (organic or 100% peanuts to avoid the sugars that dogs don’t need) or pumpkin (100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling with sugars and spices) and then freeze it. That will keep a dog busy for a few minutes. And when used correctly, a Kong can practically auto-train a puppy to only chew on chew toys. I recommend buying at least 2 per dog, so that you can freeze one and clean the other.

Dogs need something to chew on. I’m a fan of Nylabone DuraChews I have powerful chewers in my home. This is about the only thing that lasts with them. Nylabone has a variety of products. Make sure you get something that is appropriate for the size of your dog.

I love tug toys. It used to be believed (erroneously) that playing tug with a dog taught them to be aggressive. Quite the contrary. Playing tug will teach your dog that interacting with humans is fun. This will encourage social rather than anti-social behaviors. Tug ropes can also be used to teach bite inhibition, which arguably is the most important thing you can teach your puppy in the first year of its life.

Playing tug will teach your dog that interacting with humans is fun. Click To Tweet

The following toys are great ways to make eating meals a form of exercise. Dog’s love to seek out food. Let’s take advantage of that to help enrich their lives.

Consider feeding your dog out of a puzzle bowl, such as the Outward Hound Interactive Dog Bowl. It has a couple of advantages. First, it slows down eating for those dogs who like to “woof” down their food. Eating too quickly can actually be dangerous. Second, it is a puzzle that forces the dog to think while eating. You want to keep your dog mentally active.

A couple other options are the Kibble Nibble and the Kong Wobbler. If your food is too big for the Kibble Nibble, you can easily trim down the little rubber things on the end. My dogs love them. Because they are a bit more challenging than the interactive bowl, I don’t recommend using them if you are late for your dog’s meal, and would opt for the interactive bowl in those instances.


We all want to buy the best food on the market for our dogs. However, that isn’t always possible due to family finances. My general recommendation is this: Buy the best food for your dog that you can afford.

This is where Dog Food Advisor comes in. They have reviews based on ingredients, so you can know up front how good the food is for your dog. I generally recommend shooting for 4 stars and above. There are exceptions, however.

My general recommendation is this: Buy the best food for your dog that you can afford. Click To Tweet

Here are my top choices for those on a budget, all of which have been fed to my dogs:
Royal Canin: This is recommended by my vet and I believe it to be of solid quality (despite the rating on Dog Food Advisor). The problem is that it starts to slide into the pricey side.

Taste of the Wild: Another solid food. They have a variety of flavors and are on the more economical side.

Pro-Pac: A 4-star food at a more economical price.

Diamond Naturals: This is a really good budget food. No, it isn’t generally a 4-star meal, but it has a great price point for the quality that it is.

Calming Assists

Loki and Lugh Napping

Some dogs struggle with fear. I recommend having something on hand to help your dog before she or he enters the home, just in case. I personally prefer to work from the cheapest option to the most expensive, checking to see what is going to work as I go.

Lavender Scent: Lavender is typically calming to dogs. I usually recommend Air-Wick Lavender & Chamomile Plug-Ins for a home with an incoming furry family member. It can help with stress, plus it smells nice. Remember that your dog has a more sensitive nose than you do, so don’t over-do it.

Also, you will not want to use lavender scents is you have a cat and your living space is small. Lavender is bad for them. If you do use it, make sure your cat has a scent-free area far away from the diffuser.

Bach’s Rescue Remedy: This homeopathic is based on flower essences. I’ve heard of vets recommending it for dogs struggling with fireworks.

Composure Chews: The main ingredient in this is L-theanine. This helps a dog to relax. You can double or triple the dose safely if needed.

Adaptil: This is a pheromone spray. You can get a collar, little spray bottles, or a diffuser for a room. If your dog will wear a bandanna, you can spray the bandanna and allow the dog to wear it like a collar. I have also seen it in the form of wipes, though these seem to be hard to find.


Lugh Eating Dandilions

One of my biggest fears is somehow losing my dogs. So, a few years ago, I purchased the Whistle GPS for each. The peace of mind it brought was amazing. I have had some issues here and there with the units, but overall they work well. And, from what I can tell, it seems to be the best brand on the market (for now).

If it’s really cold outside, you want to protect your dog’s paws. Musher’s Secret is a wax that you spread on your dog’s pads, thus becoming a wax boot. It will keep the cold off, and well as protect paws from the sidewalk salt that burns their little feet. Also, consider a coat for those short-haired companions. And, don’t leave your dog out in the weather too long. Check this chart in my online library (filled with dog-training resources) and see at what temperature you should be concerned about your dog in the cold.

If it’s really hot out, you want to make sure to take a Gulpee with you. You do not want to get caught far from home without water.

You might want to pick up a Baskerville Muzzle for your new dog. What I like about the Baskerville is that it allows your dog to drink, pant, and take treats. Keep in mind, that you will need to train your dog to wear it happily. Hopefully, you never need it. Nonetheless, it’s good to have around just in case.

What is your dog doing while you are gone? That would be good information for you. To peek in on your pup every once in a while, you can use the Wyze Cam, which comes with night vision.