You just walked out of the animal shelter carrying a soft puffball that’s going to grow into a 60-pound dog in just one year.
You’ve got a list a mile long for your first pet store shopping trip. And while that 10- or 15-year commitment is playfully gnawing on your fingertips, you’re making mental notes on how to start puppy training on the right foot.
No doubt about it — raising a puppy can be complicated. You get only one shot, and you want to do it right. For starters, how about some common mistakes to avoid?
3 Mistakes to Avoid With Your New Puppy
1. Inconsistent Training
From consistent commands to expectations that don’t change with time, training relies on stability. It’s your job to decide at the beginning what commands you will use, what rules you’re going to enforce and how to go about doing that.
“Make sure everyone in your household knows — and follows — the rules,” says Andrea Arden, author of Dog-Friendly Dog Training.
A new puppy is already going to be drawn to every distraction around them. Don’t add to their confusion by being vague with your command training. They’re not going to understand what you want if you use multiple phrases for the same command. Choose just one — for example:
- Or “Lie down.”
- Or “Go lie down.”
And, as Jonathan P. Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, recommends, make sure your entire family is on the same page with training.
Don’t change your expectations of your dog’s behavior as they get older. If you allow them on the couch when they’re a puppy, they are going to assume they’re allowed on the couch as an adult.
You and I can see the difference one year makes — from Buttons adorably occupying a tiny spot on a couch cushion to awkwardly sprawling across the whole couch.
But, according to trainer/behaviorist Beth Jeffery, it’s “not fair to your dog to change the rules at different times and expect him to adapt just as easily as humans do.”
2. Socializing a Puppy Too Soon
“What? But I thought I was supposed to socialize them at an early age.”
That’s right. Socializing your new puppy while they’re young is going to help them deal with new situations calmly as they grow older. They will be more accustomed to meeting strangers and other dogs while out on walks. But socializing a puppy with other dogs too early may actually be hazardous to your pup’s health.
Puppies go through a series of vaccinations that may not be complete until they reach 4–5 months of age. Before that series of inoculations has been finished, your puppy is more susceptible to the diseases that adult dogs rarely have to worry about.
The most common vaccinations are for:
Some of these diseases can be fatal if contracted, so keep your pouncing puppy at a safe distance from other dogs until your veterinarian gives you the green light for safe socialization.
3. Forgetting That Your Puppy Is a Dog
The novelty of having a puppy can lead you to make certain choices that you might not make otherwise — like letting them eat from your plate at the dinner table.
Watch this Aussie shepherd puppy get some positive reinforcement training:
Treating your dog like a human is a common mistake. “And treating her as if she is will deprive her of many things that can make her healthy and happy,” says Dr. Karen Becker, DVM.
For instance, feeding Buttons food from your plate can:
- Lead to unwanted behavior, such as begging or “dumpster diving” in the kitchen garbage.
- Cause obesity, which can lead to other health problems.
- Cause poisoning, especially if you aren’t very careful about what they eat.
Stick with a high-quality diet and supplement that, if desired, with a limited number of dog treats for rewards.
Another way we treat our pets like people is by dressing them in clothes. Except for functional clothing, such as boots and jackets — and, OK, the occasional quick snapshot for a good cause — outfits are unnecessary and can be uncomfortable for dogs.
Sure, your dog is a member of your family — but they’re not a human. Your safest route for keeping them as healthy and happy as possible is to always remember that.
Taking Steps to Raise the Best Dog
There’s no denying the overwhelming experience of getting a new puppy. Excitement, joy and hilarity take over your house as a 4-legged tumbleweed with boundless energy takes over your home.
But the hard work that comes with that goofy new addition is important if you want to ensure that you’re raising the best dog possible.