Whether you received a little bundle of fluff during the Holidays or you’re about to get a puppy as the weather starts to get warmer, you know that there’s going to be a lot of work and fun ahead of you. Just like having a new baby at home, the first few weeks or months with a new puppy can be tiring and somewhat frustrating. So what are the biggest mistakes that new puppy owners make and how do you get on the right track to raising your new best friend to be an adorable, well-behaved adult?
Not starting as you mean to go on
It’s important to remember that when raising a puppy, dogs think in terms of the dog pack hierarchy. For your dog, where every family member is part of a hierarchy that matters to him, he needs to see you as the pack leader or alpha (top ranked) in the household. You should eat first, go through a doorway first, sit and sleep in the best places in your home. By doing these simple things, your dog understands that you are the boss. It is very difficult to break undesirable habits, so it is better to begin as you mean to continue. You decide on the household rules and if you want your puppy to behave you need to not only enforce the rules but also stick to them. Be firm and consistent with your dog so he knows what you expect.
Overlooking issues that affect health and safety
It is so tempting to want to try out the new leash and introduce your lil’ buddy to the neighbors, but unless your pup has received all stages of vaccinations, it can threaten his health. Vaccinations are vitally important. Your puppy’s immune system is in its infancy and needs the protection of the vaccinations to prevent him from contracting diseases from other dogs. If you have an enclosed yard that is not accessed by dogs outside of your immediate family, that is absolutely fine, but don’t be tempted to go for walks yet as he will be susceptible to airborne infections or could even contract something from the sidewalk. When all vaccinations are completed and you are ready to go out, make sure that your puppy also has a safe area to travel in your vehicle. Placing him in the rear with a vehicle-specific pet barrier installed is one of the best options for avoiding driving distractions and giving your pup a secure, comfortable area.
Trying to be the Mom
There is always going to be a certain amount of separation anxiety when a puppy leaves his mother, but your role is different and it is important to adopt your differing role from the outset. A puppy should not be allowed to be by your side for every single minute of the day and night, or the separation anxiety will only increase into adulthood. There are many and varied approaches to training puppies. Crate training has become increasingly popular in recent years and for many it just makes sense. One of the great reasons is that it gives the puppy his own private, safe space to which he can retreat for some quiet time, allowing him to learn to be on his own for short periods.
Feeding table scraps
Although we are so easily persuaded to give into big, soulful eyes staring at us longingly while we wolf down a cheeseburger, feeding table scraps is a bad habit to get into. If you start to feed your puppy scraps from the table, he will come to expect food from your plate (and from others) at every meal. It is far better for your puppy’s health if he is only fed with dog food and far better for your dinner guests if your puppy is kept at a distance from the table during mealtimes.
Taking him out of the crate
As mentioned above, crate training is great for giving your dog his own personal space and this can be the perfect place to sleep at night too. Initially adjusting to being in the crate overnight can take a while as the puppy is used to sleeping with his mother and the rest of the litter. It is common for the puppy to cry in the crate at first, but don’t be tempted to take him out of the crate. Allow the puppy to fall asleep by himself by covering the crate with a blanket (or a cute fabric crate cover) so that it is darker inside. Sometimes placing a ticking clock outside of the crate can have a soothing effect on a pup.
Above all, when training your dog, be kind, patient, and consistent. You will absolutely reap the rewards in the long term and will be able to enjoy your precious time together. January is National Train Your Dog Month; what better time to start?
Have you had any hilarious experiences when training puppies? We’d love to hear about them.