Updated: Sep 11
If you're reading this, I am hoping you have gotten on a list for a Golden Retriever puppy from an exceptional breeder who does all the recommended health tests and sets their puppies up for success. If you aren't at that stage yet or if you want to learn more about what to look for in an ethical Golden Retriever breeder, please check out the Golden Retriever Club of America's page on selecting a breeder.
Once you get a breeder lined up and are set to get a puppy, it's time to prepare! Bringing home a Golden Retriever puppy is such an exciting time. They are so fluffy, cute, and are tons of fun! With all that cuteness comes a lot of responsibility. They are little, curious, mouthy, vacuum cleaners! It's our job to puppy proof our home in order to reduce the likelihood that they will get into mischief.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
This is the fun part! We didn't realize just how many things puppies can find to get into until we got down on their level (hands and knees) and looked at the world from a puppy's perspective. We found so many things we didn't notice before. We picked up everything within puppy's reach that they should not have. This method sounded extreme the first time I heard it, but I tried it and found that it is incredibly helpful and puts puppy proofing into a new perspective. You would be so surprised at all the little things they can find to ingest that could cause an obstruction in their digestive systems. And, like I said before, they are vacuum cleaners! If it exists and if they can reach it, they'll probably find it and try eating it. So, if I had one piece of advice I would say this: go through your home from a puppy's level and look for all the things they could get ahold of that they shouldn't. Put all harmful things out of reach so puppy cannot get to them. Be thorough! Check under that couch, in that closet, under your desk, etc. Everyone's house is different so you should look for anything that is in reach of a puppy that they shouldn't have. Don't forget to also pick up all small things like paperclips, coins, etc. It probably goes without saying but also put cleaners and foods that are poisonous to dogs out of reach! Even look outdoors where the puppy can wander. Remove anything you find that they could chew on, eat, or drink that could harm them. It is our job as owners to be excellent advocates for our puppies and prevent them from getting in harm's way!
I also really like to restrict the area they can go in the house and gradually increase it as they get older and more trained. If you come to our house, you will see that we have baby gates in place to prevent the dogs from wandering off too far without supervision. This way if they give any indication they need to go to the bathroom, we can direct them outside. If they start chewing on the wrong things we can redirect them. Puppies are like small children and really do need supervision. We don't let babies crawl all over the house without having supervision. If you give your puppy free range before they learn manners, this might increase the likelihood they will get into something that could harm them.
There are so many things to watch out for, I really could go on forever. But the last thing I will mention is that you should become aware of what foods, medicines, flowers, plants, and products (like essential oils) that are unsafe for dogs. Did you know grapes, ibuprofen, chocolate, and eucalyptus oil are poisonous to dogs, just to name a few? Those items are just the tip of the iceberg. I had no idea before we began preparing to bring home our first puppy that so many items that are okay for us aren't safe for dogs. You need to become aware of foods and products that are unsafe for dogs. Obviously you may not be able to memorize the entire list. But before giving your dog medicine when they aren't feeling well, a tasty snack meant for humans, or rubbing essential oil on your dog, do a check on all ingredients that food/medicine/product contains and make sure it is safe for dogs! Express this to everyone in your household. As always, talk to your vet if you aren't sure. If you suspect your dog has come in contact with something poisonous to them, seek immediate veterinary care!
The following are our "must haves" when we are planning to bring home a new puppy. They aren't in any particular order. However, we have divided them into what we feel is essential and what we believe is just nice to have.
Adjustable Crate - We prefer a 42” wire crate with adjustable divider. This crate is big enough for when your dog is fully grown and you can scale it up with the divider as your puppy grows. The wire crate is convenient because it folds up for transport, is well built, and will last you a long time. They are also easily affordable. I cannot stress the importance of crate training your puppy. There are far too many situations where a dog needs to have crate skills (boarding, vet, emergency situations, travel, etc.). We expose our puppies to crates early and play crate games in order to make it more fun. Our dogs will go into their crate on their own, with the door open and relax because they have fond memories there and feel secure and comfortable in their crate.
Exercise Pen - I think of it like a Play Pen. It gives the puppy a designated place to play without having so much space they can find things to get into or chew on. Of course you want to be careful and secure it so they don't tip it over. We like the wire play pen fences in combination with the crate. This allows your dog a safe play area during the day with a place to go potty when you can’t directly supervise (see puppy pads in the Nice to Have list below). We attach the exercise pens to the crate also so they can nap in their crate whenever they want. The 32” exercise pen is probably tall enough for puppies, but we even use this for our adult dogs sometimes to divide a room or section them off during feeding so you may want to go with the 40” fence.
Baby Gates - We put tall baby gates at the top and bottom of our stairs. This helps prevent our puppies from climbing and rolling down the stairs. You can normally find these on Facebook Marketplace for pretty cheap.
Dog Food Container and Measuring Scoop - Goldens are prone to weight gain, so we like to measure food and feed what is recommended on the bag. We feed 2/3 their daily recommended amount as meals and the other 1/3 they get as treats throughout the day while training. We love to train throughout the day in small increments.
High Quality Puppy Food - We can't stress enough that you should use a high quality food for your puppy. This doesn't mean the most expensive, grain-free, boutique food at the pet store either. We actually steer clear of grain-free kibbles. We feed and recommend Royal Canin Golden Retriever formulas.
Leash & Collar - Get a well fitting collar and a leash (not retractable). We steer clear of retractable leashes for strong dogs like Golden Retrievers. We do lots of training on leashes. Your dogs grows quickly so make sure you check the collar regularly to make sure it isn't too tight or hasn't become too loose.
Brush - We brush our Golden Retrievers daily and use a light brushing spray. You need an undercoat rake and a slicker brush to control shedding. Even if you use a groomer we recommend having these on hand and using them once or twice a week.
Puppy Shampoo - We recommend a tear-free puppy shampoo and recommend exposing your puppy positively to baths. Make sure they get fully rinsed and completely dry to prevent hot spots (we recommend a dryer specifically made for dogs).
Long Line - We love training with a long line as it helps a lot with training recall!
Poop Bags - You’ll need these when you take your dog out to socialize or if you have a smaller yard that will build up poop over time.
ID Tags and Collar - We microchip all our dogs and will provide the corresponding tag. We also recommend you get a custom tag made with the dogs name, your phone number, and address. If you were to lose your little guy or girl you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for people to get ahold of you.
Dog Toothbrush and Toothpaste - They need their teeth brushed regularly. You might be surprised how expensive and painful neglecting canine dental health can be. We expose them to this several times while they’re developing and with it becoming a regular habit at their new home they begin to look forward to this (mostly because the toothpaste seems like a treat to them!).
Ear Cleaner - Golden Retrievers need their ears cleaned regularly to prevent ear infections. On average we personally clean our Golden Retriever's ears about 2 times per week. We do it more frequently if they are swimming, dock diving, etc. We recommend consulting your veterinarian on what cleaners they recommend and how frequently they recommend cleaning your dog's ears.
Nail Clippers - We recommend positively exposing your dog to nail clippers regularly as a puppy in order to prevent them from being terrified of it as an adult. Please do your research on how to properly trim your dog's nails, talk to your vet, and keep a styptic powder, such as Kwik Stop nearby. Don't overdo it by cutting the nail too short and accidentally cutting the quick. This is painful and bleeds a lot. Make sure puppy is having a positive experience with treats and praise while they are getting their nails trimmed. If you get a puppy from us, we make it a point to expose them to this before they ever go to their forever home. Keeping their nails clipped regularly when they get to your home is important. In our experience the longer they grow, the less you can clip since the quick grows along with it. This can cause discomfort for not only you when you get scratched by the nails, but also for the dog when they are trying to walk on them. Luckily we make it a big point to get them used to being clipped. Some people also use a rotary tool with a sanding bit like a Dremel (which we also expose them to several times at young ages). Alternatively you can take them to a groomer regularly to avoid this. https://www.amazon.com/SunGrow-Clippers-Professional-Grooming-Suitable/dp/B07Q4PHYPB
Dog First Aid Kit - This is an absolute must! We keep one with us at all times. You can find them on Chewy, but we always discuss their contents with our vet and they have excellent recommendations on what to add to our kit.
Establish a Vet - You want to a vet lined up and a visit scheduled to get a health check and discuss with them your new puppy's vaccination schedule.
Dog Poison Control Hotline - This is a really good thing to have on hand in case your dog gets into something he/she shouldn't.
Grooming Visit - I recommend, once your puppy has had it's core vaccinations and you get your vet's okay, that you take them to visit a well respected Groomer. The reason for doing this as a puppy is so they will have a positive experience being away from you and being on the grooming table. They get to be re-introduced to a dog dryer, nail clippers/grinder, and all manner of things that, if done properly, will set them up for success.
Puppy Training Class - Once your puppy is up to date on it's vaccinations and gets your vet's okay to do so, take them to a puppy class! And not just any trainer, preferably someone who is reputable and has lots of experience and reviews. Puppy classes can be excellent places to socialize with other dogs and humans while teaching you how to communicate with your dog. In our experience, training builds a lifelong bond.
Nice to Have
Kong - We love Kong toys! They keep the puppy occupied while crate training and they love them! You can fill them with lots of tasty treats that make puppy look forward to crate time.
Safe Chew Toys - You want some safe chew toys you can redirect their mouthiness to. Golden Retrievers can be little land sharks! Help redirect them to the proper things they can chew on, while being supervised, so they don't chew up their bed, sofa, your ankles, etc. Kong makes great durable toys and Nylabone makes great options for chew toys. We do not like cloth, stuffing, or little thin rubber stuff because the dogs will often try to eat this stuff. https://www.amazon.com/Nylabone-Textured-Peanut-Butter-Chicken/dp/B00JZIDFKK
Large Elevated Dog Bed - We like this style of bed because it’s super easy to clean compared to the stuffed beds, it’s affordable, and it lasts much longer than other kinds of beds.
Puppy Pads and Litter - Small puppies have small bladders. They like to pee every couple hours, if not even more often than that. To keep from having to get up and let them out multiple times at night, we set a small area within their pen for pads with some wood pellets on pee pads. The little bit of litter on top of the pads is all the absorbency you need, and the pad makes it easy to just pick it all up and throw it away with minimal mess or fuss. This is also what your puppy has grown accustomed to using if they come from us (as well as lots of outdoor potty breaks during the day). It probably goes without saying, but make sure your puppy does not attempt to eat the puppy pad or litter.
Travel harness and Dog Seat Belt - We only use the harness for car travel for safety reasons if we aren't able to fit a kennel in our car. We do not recommend your dogs running loose in your moving vehicle. This is dangerous for you and your dog. We also do not recommend attaching a seat belt to a collar as this can cause permanent injury or death. The dog seat belt clips to the harness and plugs into a regular seat belt buckle. https://www.amazon.com/Lina-Pets-Dog-Seatbelt-Adjustable/dp/B09LV6XR6C We recommend fitting a harness in store. One that fits well but also adjusts for the puppy as they grow is ideal.
Bedding - We like using fleece throws. They’re soft and comfy, easy to clean, and they’re cheap enough that you can have lots of them with all the different cute little designs!
Blow Dryer - Getting your dog fully dry after a bath is important. Moisture trapped in the coat can cause hot spots which are painful inflammatory spots on their skin. Just make sure to use this on a lower setting without heat and use a brush to help you get into the fur without staying on one spot too long. This can be avoided with regular visits to the groomer.
Chuckit Ball launcher and ball - Golden Retrievers love balls more than anything in the world. It takes very little effort to teach a Retriever to fetch, because once they have the ball there’s only one more thing they need in their life and that’s you! The chuckit launcher will sure save you some arm soreness, you can throw twice as far with these things with half the effort. You’ll need a good sized fenced-in area though. https://www.amazon.com/Chuckit-Classic-Launcher-Thrower-Assorted/dp/B00006IX59
Thanks for reading, we hope this helps. If you have feedback or any suggestions on topics for future blogs, send us a message!