First-time puppy owners are a lot like first-time parents – they’re happy about the new arrival, but fearful of making mistakes, and perhaps even a bit intimidated by the responsibility they’re about to undertake. Certainly, it is a big responsibility, and it’s a given that you’ll make mistakes. The key is not to re-invent the wheel.
Dog owners who came before you have already made just about every possible mistake. So, if you understand where they got it wrong, you can avoid common mistakes. Here are 10 of them.
1. Committing Without Thinking
If you’re not 100% sure that you’re ready to commit to a dog, stop right here and wait until you are ready. A puppy is not something you should buy on impulse. Too many dogs end up in shelters because people decided they weren’t ready for a commitment that lasts ten or so years.
2. Putting off Training
“I’ll start tomorrow,” you think. Then tomorrow comes and goes, and your puppy grows, and next thing you know you have a rambunctious adolescent with a lot of bad habits. The sooner you start obedience training, the better – it’s much easier to nip a problem in the bud than to correct it later on.
Train consistently, using the same verbal commands and hand signals all the time. If you vary the method, your dog will become confused.
Puppies will usually eat pretty much anything you offer them, but treats shouldn’t just be handed out for no reason. It’s best to reserve treats for training sessions – that way, the puppy connects a treat with good behavior, and you have a powerful motivational tool as opposed to something you offer, and your puppy expects, for no particular reason.
5. Poor Socialization
Puppies are meant to remain with the litter for the first eight weeks of life – this is the time when they learn how to be dogs. So, if you’re thinking of buying a puppy younger than eight weeks, don’t. During this period, a responsible breeder will also make sure that the puppies are frequently handled by humans. Then, once you take your puppy home, it is your job to continue the socialization process, making sure that your puppy is exposed to different people and also to other pets. The more experiences your puppy is exposed to, the more confident he will be.
6. Not Enough Exercise
Puppies and dogs typically have a great deal of energy, and even the laziest dog is going to need daily exercise. A lack of exercise can lead to behavioral problems like destructiveness and excessive barking.
7. Not Enough Mental Stimulation
In addition to exercising your dog’s body, it is also important that you exercise his mind. Training provides mental stimulation, as do a variety of toys, and of course playtime with their person.
8. Too Much “Alone” Time
If your puppy is alone for long periods of time, chances are he’s missing out on both exercise and mental stimulation. He is also more likely to have accidents in the house, and could also develop behavioral problems or separation anxiety.
9. Not “Puppy-Proofing” the House
You need to puppy-proof the home in much the same way as you would child-proof it. This means making sure that any cleaning products are secured, and electrical cords are out of reach. Make sure to puppy-proof the garage as well – petroleum products and anti-freeze can be deadly.
10. Punishing Undesirable Behavior
It is possible that if you punish your dog for misbehaving, he will learn not to do what you punished him for doing. It is more likely, though, that he’ll become afraid of you. Praise and rewards are always more effective ways of training your dog than punishment.
The Final Word
As a new puppy owner, you will make mistakes – it goes with the territory. No one ever raises a puppy, and when that puppy reaches adulthood, says, “I got it exactly right.” But now you know the most common mistakes, and they’re also the most significant ones. Avoid them, and you’ll be well on your way to having a well-adjusted dog