The first few weeks of having a puppy can be tiring and frustrating. It is common during this time, even for those who have had puppies before, to make some common mistakes. While all new parents make mistakes, it is essential to recognize them and avoid repeating them to raise a healthy, well-balanced dog.
Here are some of the most common puppy mistakes that owners often make when not armed with the correct first-time puppy owners tips.
1. Don’t “Rescue” Your Crying Puppy From Their Crate
Many puppy owners choose to crate train their dogs. Crate training is a great idea for many reasons, primarily because it provides a dog with a safe personal space where they cannot harm themselves when not being watched.
Unfortunately, many dog owners who claim allegiance to crate training give up after their first sleepless night. It is not uncommon for puppies to cry through the night when placed in their crate the first few times. Many new dog parents especially, find this crying heartbreaking and decide to take their puppy out and let them sleep on their bed instead. While allowing your dog to sleep on your bed is not necessarily a bad idea, letting a puppy sleep on your bed could form a bad habit. Puppies do not have the bladder control that older dogs have, and puppies that fall asleep in your bed may soon result in accidents.
Accidents are not the biggest concern with taking a puppy out of their crate at nighttime. However, responding to a puppy’s cries when they are unhappy in their crate lets your dog know that they can cry for you and get what they want. This behavior may make you feel needed, but it can become annoying and problematic when your dog continues it in their adult years, particularly if you live in an apartment or a townhouse.
If your puppy cries when placed in their crate at night, resist the urge to rescue them and instead try to help them fall asleep by covering their cage with a blanket to create complete darkness. If you feel that your puppy may be “missing home,” you can try placing a ticking clock outside their crate or playing a heartbeat sound effect to soothe them. The best thing you can do for your puppy is to let them fall asleep by themselves in the long run. Do not allow your dog to “rule the roost” (even at eight weeks old.)
2. Don’t Pick Your Puppy Up
There are two reasons that we pick our puppies up. One is that we want to cuddle with them. The other is that we are afraid for them. Both of these are poor reasons and can result in severe maladjustment for an adult dog.
Turns Your Dog Into A Person (Instead Of A Dog)
There is nothing wrong with cuddling and playing with your new puppy, but try to limit picking them up. Continually holding your dog can make them begin to feel as though they are human and can encourage behavior that causes dominance struggles within your home.
Your dog should understand that their place is on the floor where they are not equal to you. For the same reason you are discouraged from getting on the floor with your dog to play in “their territory,” you should not bring your dog into your territory. It is difficult not to want to cuddle your new puppy every minute of the day but try to limit affection to petting and playing behaviors rather than regularly lifting your dog and holding them.
Makes Your Dog A Nervous Wreck
Just as we do with children, most of us have the instinct to protect our dogs. This instinct is especially powerful when we have new puppies that are so small and appear defenseless. As pet parents, we may become nervous when an 80-pound dog comes lumbering towards our 12-pound puppy, and our first instinct is often to pick them up. It is important not to give in to this instinct because it encourages fear rather than curiosity in a puppy.
Puppies are naturally inquisitive, and the only way they can learn to socialize with and understand other dogs is through interaction. If you have concerns as to whether an approaching dog is friendly, ask their owner if their dog is friendly and if you can allow your puppy to greet them. Picking up a dog because we are afraid for them instills that same fear in the dog and leads to a terrified and mentally unstable grown dog.
As a puppy, your dog has probably not shown any significant health concerns at their young age. Since pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions, the younger your dog is when you signup, the better coverage you will likely receive throughout their lifetime. Further, pet insurance can help support you financially during the unpredictable puppy years when dogs are more likely to chew on things they shouldn’t and run into dangerous situations. Check out our pet insurance 101 guide to learn more and determine whether pet insurance is worth it for your puppy.
3. Don’t Let Them Hide
Hiding behavior is another habit that should be discouraged. Just as some of us want to pick up our puppy when we feel afraid for them, many of us allow our dogs to hide behind us as well. This type of behavior should not be encouraged in any way because it also encourages anxiety that can lead to a fearful adult dog.
If your puppy tries to hide behind you, simply push them forward and encourage them to face what they are hiding from.
If at any time your puppy shows extreme fear responses along with hiding behavior or begging to be picked up, you should seek immediate professional intervention. Extreme fear responses include snapping, biting, or fear-based urination.
4. Stop Feeding Them Table Scraps
Feeding table scraps is one of the most challenging habits to break, which is why you should never start it. Eating at a family dinner can make you feel guilty, particularly if your nine-week-old puppy is watching and drooling over your pot roast.
It is important not to give in to feeding table scraps because once you feed your puppy one morsel of food, they will come to expect food every time you eat at the table.
Most human food is unhealthy for dogs and the cause of many common ailments, including pancreatitis. It is also extremely bothersome when the dog is older and takes to drooling on dinner guests. Avoid this situation altogether by teaching your puppy to go to their crate during mealtimes.
Don’t Worry, Mistakes Happen
Don’t beat yourself up for being a bad pet parent. Mistakes are inevitable, and give yourself (and your dog) grace and room to grow. Healthy habits are not formed overnight. They take persistence and practice, paying off in the end. If you need additional help, we recommend trying online dog training as a great way to learn the basics on your own schedule, at home.
Have you made any of these or other common puppy mistakes?