Ah, the pitter patter sound of new puppy paws. Couple that with the oh-so-sweet scent a new puppy emits, and top it off with the gentle sounds of puppy snores. These are the moments dog moms and dads love about having a new pooch to call their own.
Doing right by our dogs is of utmost importance, but there are several common mistakes new pet parents make when a puppy enters their life. Here are eight common mistakes and tips for correcting those behaviors:
Car Rides to the Veterinarian
If the only time a puppy knows the car is when it takes him to the veterinarian for scary things like shots or strangers prying and poking, this unknowingly sets up travel fears. Thwart this behavior by nipping it in the bud early on. Take your pooch in the car for visits other than the vet. Go to a park, a pet supply store, a friend’s house, or a doggy play date. Praise your pup for being a good boy and do the same thing when you arrive home.
Ignoring the Paws
Many dogs develop an aversion to having their nails clipped and/or having someone (i.e. a groomer) touch or handle their paws. By touching your puppy’s paws early on, acclimating him to a brush, and using positive reinforcement in association with these behaviors, you teach the pooch a valuable lesson: Paw touching and handling is awesome.
Being a Loner
When I got my very first puppy as an adult, I didn’t spend a lot of time around other pets. She entered my life in December, so the weather was chilly and walks were infrequent. When spring time came, my pooch was less than social, so we had to work on that. Puppies who are introduced to a variety of dogs and situations early on tend to be better socialized and learn to play well with others as they mature.
Yes, puppies are adorable. Yes, big brown dog eyes can mesmerize you to babble like a toddler. Resist the urge to feed a dog table scraps or “people food” of any kind. This is one of the hardest habits to break. I know because my last dog was a beggar and she never “unlearned” this behavior. Puppies learn behaviors early on that can lead to bigger issues later. The bottom line is that people food is generally unhealthy for dogs and can cause a whole host of digestive issues.
Wanting Them to Learn Fast
Most puppies leave their litter-mates at eight weeks of age. The first several weeks with a new puppy means a huge adjustment. Do not get frustrated with your new pooch. Puppies don’t stay young for long and a dog matures quickly. Imagine you are the puppy and suddenly everything you know from your siblings to your mom are gone. I’d cry, too! Learn patience and if you aren’t a patient person, then a puppy is simply not the right choice for you.
House-training a dog and teaching him to do his potty business outside is perhaps the biggest challenge most new pet parents face. Never ever scold a dog for peeing inside the house long after the fact. After a long day of work, returning home to a soiled rug is no fun. Yelling or shouting at your puppy isn’t pleasant for him, either. Your pooch only understands that you came home and got loud. He’s long forgotten about that wet mess he made. Again, patience and correct expectations are essential.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed this behavior in public and have confronted pet parents over the years. Putting your hand(s) on a dog as a form of punishment is not only wrong but also very harmful to your relationship with the dog. In her book, “It’s Me or the Dog,” positive reinforcement dog trainer, Victoria Stillwell, writes, “When you hit a dog, you teach him to fear you, break his trust, and you weaken his confidence. Insecure dogs are the ones who are more likely to lash out in an aggressive display.” Bullies hit people and pets. Take a class with your dog that teaches positive reinforcement. Hitting is for punching bags, not for pets.
Long Periods Alone
Dogs are pack animals, plain and simple. Dog crate training is an option for many but so is doggy daycare and pet sitting services. Puppies should not be allowed free reign of the house, as this allows wandering eyes and minds to get into trouble. Have a friend, relative, or trusted colleague check on your dog and allow potty breaks and interaction throughout the day. Never use a crate as a punishment. The puppy should view his crate as a safe haven away from the hectic world. It is truly his place to get away. Never leave a puppy alone for extended periods of time.
One of the greatest rewards in being a new puppy parent is helping him grow into a canine good citizen. Knowing what to expect and doing right by and for your new friend will lead to a lifetime of special memories and moments shared together.