Getting a new puppy is very exciting! But the first month with the puppy is the most challenging and overwhelming. I want to talk about the most common mistakes you may encounter and offer some new puppy tips for avoiding or fixing them.
Often, we bring a dog home, unhook the leash, and set it “free” without any thought about what we want him to do or not to do. But the reality is allowing this will more likely than not lead to your puppy getting into some kind of trouble! You may experience unexpected puppy potty accidents, unwanted chewing, and depending on whether or not you puppy-proofed your home, they can get into harmful situations. These are all possibilities you can face with a free-roaming puppy.
1. Allowing your puppy to free roam.
The best tactic is to introduce your puppy only to one room, where they will be eating and sleeping. And if you cannot monitor your puppy, put them somewhere safe like their crate or playpen until you are able to watch them closely again.
2. Not using a dog crate.
In my experience, crate training is one of the most valuable assets in puppy training! It provides a safe place of their own where your puppy can rest, helps teach them independence and confidence in being alone, and can even speed up the puppy potty training process!
So many puppy owners either do not use a crate or prematurely stop using the crate. Most people who do not use a crate with their dog, have the mindset that a crate is a punishment or inhumane. This is completely FALSE. Dogs love crates because they replicate their natural instincts to have a safe den to sleep and rest in.
3. No house rules and inconsistency.
So, we let our puppies roam around the house unsupervised and when they start doing things that we decide are bad, we try to punish them for not reading our minds. Sometimes we allow them to do something for a couple of weeks and then change the rules and decide we do not want them to do it anymore. This creates confusion and sets the dog up for failure, not success.
Before you bring a new dog or puppy into the house, sit down with members of the household, and decide what the dog will and will not be allowed to do. Choose where the dog will sleep if they can be on the furniture when they will be fed, walked, exercised and by whom. Setting the rules and a new puppy schedule, and making sure everyone follows them is a big key to success.
Once your rules are set – FOLLOW THEM! This means everyone who has frequent contact with your new dog, whether it is family members, friends or the housekeeper. Dogs are smart creatures and if just one person lets them sleep on the couch, they will think that they are allowed to sleep on any couch. Hold the humans accountable and your dog will learn.
4. No socialization.
New dog owners often assume that dogs are just friendly by nature and so they do not give much thought to socializing their dog. Although socialization is not something you can immediately do until your puppy has received their vaccination rounds from their veterinarian, it should be one of the first things on your list once they are ready!
Puppies have a socialization window that starts before you even get them and ends around 12-16 weeks. During this time, the more positive experiences your dog has with other dogs (small, large, short hair, long hair) and people (old, young, with hats, beards, in wheelchairs, etc) the more friendly your dog is likely to become.
I highly recommend enrolling your puppy into a puppy training class. It is a great place to socialize your puppy with other puppies and people in a safe controlled environment.
5. Believing “baby” is too young to train.
One of the most frequent comments we hear from new puppy owners is they wish they hadn\'t waited so long to start training! Don’t wait until they are older and develop bad behaviors. Start teaching them proper dog behavior from day one! Not only does positive reinforcement training strengthen your bond, but it will also lead to a well-behaved dog.
Young puppies may not be able to learn certain advanced skills, but you can immediately start a puppy training schedule with things like potty training, creating boundaries, and certain basic commands like “Sit” and “Come” are a good starting point.
6. Believing your puppy will grow out of it.
A very common remark from the new puppy owners: “I cannot wait till he grows out of it!” Please remember dogs do not grow out of bad behavior! In fact, left to their own devices they will get worse.
Remember, these behaviors are only considered bad by us – your dog is self-rewarded by digging up the flowers, chasing cats, and barking at other dogs while walking on a leash. They are not going to stop unless you give them a reason by reinforcing other good dog behavior.
New dog owners think their tiny puppy jumping on them for attention is just adorable, and that little howl she makes when she is left alone is just too sad to ignore.
However, when your 80-pound German Shepherd jumps up on your grandma, it won’t be so cute. And the sympathy will stop when your adult Husky howls all night while you try to sleep. Keep in mind how big your dog will be and whether or not you want those behaviors to continue past puppyhood. If not, do not let them continue now.
7. Overfeeding puppy and not providing all the necessary nutrients.
As a nation of dog lovers, we like feeding our beloved pets, but sometimes, we take this too far. Giving your pup a little bit too much food is easily done – whether you are unknowingly overfilling their bowl or slipping them too many treats for being cute – but doing so can be disastrous for their health.
Puppy overfeeding can lead to serious health consequences like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and reduced lifespan so it is important to keep an eye out for troublesome symptoms that your dog is eating too much.
Young puppies up to 6 months should get all the nutrients that they need from high-quality dog food. After 6 months puppies grow and develop amazingly fast. They become highly active, and their muscles often grow faster than bones.
Many puppies of large and giant breeds, such as German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, and Labrador Retriever, may already have problems with hips, lower back, or elbows. These problems are not usually visible to the average dog keeper and do not become apparent until conditions worsen.
So, we concluded that it is best to start giving your puppy supplements at 6 months of age. Realizing that the puppy should develop naturally we did not want to overload their bodies with too many ingredients.
Tanya, Co-Owner of Pawsomely Healthy