Getting a new puppy is an exciting journey, but it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s also a long-term commitment!
Your new companion is going to be with you for the better part of 10 years, at least, and in the excitement of puppyhood, it’s easy to forget to keep the long-term plan in mind. It’s also very easy to be so completely in love with your puppy that you make unintentional mistakes which may haunt you for a long time.
To keep the end goal in place, avoid these top eight mistakes new puppy owners commonly make.
1. Letting your puppy sleep in your bed, or sleeping with your puppy in her room
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your dog sleep in your bed, it can be confusing for your dog if you are going to change your mind about letting her sleep in your bed when she’s a fullygrown Bullmastiff or Rottweiler.
So if you are going to prefer letting your adult dog sleep in her own bed, start that habit now, as it will be less confusing for your dog in the long run.
Similarly, if you want your pup to sleep in a different room, don’t put a mattress on the floor and sleep with her there in the beginning. Rather provide her with a hot-water bottle, a ticking clock and of course a very comfortable bed before calmly saying goodnight. If she cries, walk past her so she can see you and hear you, but don’t play with her. The first few nights alone can be quite scary for a pup not used to being alone. If you start sleeping in the same room, you’re creating an expectation that will be difficult to change later on.
Don’t ignore her if she’s crying – she will be in real distress. Rather let her know you’re there by making some noise and providing comforting alternatives such as the ones mentioned above, but don’t create a new habit that will be difficult to break later.
2. Making exceptions to house rules
If you don’t like your dog begging for food when you’re eating, don’t give in to the puppy cuteness and sneak a tid-bit off your plate. If you don’t like your adult dog jumping up, don’t teach the pup to do that now. Remember, whatever you teach your dog now will stay in place for the next 10 to 15 years!
3. Letting other people accidentally teach your puppy bad manners
I know it’s difficult to ignore a cute bundle of fluff jumping up on you for a cuddle, but ask yourself this: When your cute bundle weighs 60 kg, are you still going to find the behaviour endearing?
Many visitors will accidentally teach your pup to jump up by giving her lots of cuddles when she does it, so it’s up to you to make sure they don’t confuse her.
Jumping up is one of the hardest obedience problems to solve, simply because people are inconsistent! So rather don’t let your dog learn to jump up in greeting – state the rule of ‘no four feet on the floor, no attention’ very clearly to everyone before they meet your dog.
Encourage them to greet her only when she’s standing or sitting and save yourself lots of heartache later on.
4. Teaching your puppy to chew old shoes or soft toys
If you give your pup old shoes, socks, shirts or hairbrushes to chew on, you’re teaching him that those are acceptable chew toys.
Dogs don’t know the difference between an old pair of shoes that you no longer want, and your brand new pair of Nike trainers, just as they don’t know the difference between your child’s teddy bear and the soft toy you gave them. So rather stick to providing only dog-safe (and mistake-proof) chew toys like Kongs, hooves and other suitable toys.
5. Not taking him to puppy classes because you have other dogs
Puppy class isn’t just about socialisation with dogs. It’s about teaching your dog life skills and how to fit into a human world.
In a well-run puppy class you’ll be taught all about obedience training, bite inhibition, frustration tolerance, housetraining, problem-solving skills, impulse control, habituation and so much more – all things your pup needs to know about to be a successful companion.
6. Feeding her the same as your other older dogs
Puppies have very specific dietary needs, and if you feed them the wrong stage food, you can seriously affect their physical and emotional development. Puppy food isn’t a marketing ploy; it’s a very specific diet that meets your specific puppy’s needs perfectly, so speak to your vet about the right food for your dog.
7. Punishing your pup for messing inside
If you punish your puppy for having an accident inside, you aren’t teaching him where he’s supposed to go to the toilet, but you are teaching him not to be anywhere near you when there’s any urine or faeces in sight.
If you punish him for making mistakes, you’re making it very difficult for yourself to housetrain your dog. Rather ignore mistakes, clean them up when he’s not watching, and spend extra time and effort praising him when he goes to the toilet where you showed him to go. Take him out every 45 minutes and stay with him so you can instantly reward with a treat when he goes on the lawn.
8. Providing newspaper as an indoor toilet option
I know, I know, this is widely advised and used, and yes, it’s ok provided you actually end up weaning your dog off using the paper!
If you are going to put down paper to let your pup use that to wee on at night, remember you still have to teach her to control her bladder when she gets to about six months of age. If you don’t teach her to ‘hold it’ overnight, you are going to have to put newspaper down for the rest of your dog’s life.
Getting a new puppy is fantastic, and should be a super enjoyable experience. In order to continue having fun with your dog, regardless of his or her age, keep in mind that it’s always better to start as you mean to continue. That way, you won’t have to confuse your dog or train in new behaviours when your dog’s an adult.