Good Intentions Gone Wrong; The biggest mistakes new dog owners make.

So, you got a new puppy or rescued an adult dog. How exciting! You got a dog because you wanted to go places and do stuff with your new buddy. You wanted to get more exercise, and fresh air. You have been dreaming of throwing tennis balls, camping and hiking trips, and joyful kids with their playful pooch. And here it is! The moment you have been waiting for...... What now?

I want to do stuff with my dog! I want to walk him, and take him to barbecues... Maybe go hiking? The dog park sounds fun. I can't wait for everyone to see my pooch! 

The biggest mistake people make is 'too much, too soon.' Your new puppy or new dog needs time to bond with you and your family. He needs routine and consistency. He needs to get to know you and learn what you expect of him.  This is especially true of a rescue dog. Your new pooch might have been in need of rescuing because he doesn't come when called, was afraid of loud noises and ran, chased cars, jumped fences, or bolted out of doors. These are not insurmountable behaviors, but if you try to do too much, too soon, you might find out the hard way that your new dog has some vices. Improper socialization, even one bad experience, can lead to a lifetime of behavior problems. You have time to check the 'do stuff' off your list. Let your dog settle in.

I want my dog to get to know his new house.... Maybe find a spot on the couch. He's a rescue. I don't want him to feel cooped up. 

The second biggest mistake people make is giving their new dog too much freedom. Dogs are creatures of habit, just like us. What ever they practice becomes ingrained in them, and is difficult to undo. Letting your dog have 'free run of the house' causes big behavior problems. It may result in difficulty potty training, counter surfing, trash diving, destruction, nuisance barking, and even aggressive behaviors. If your dog has the opportunity to practice these things, not only will they continue to do it, they will get better at it. Dogs eat inappropriate items all of the time (plastic, rocks, chocolate, coins, cell phones; You name, they have eaten it). And sometimes, they require very expensive surgery to have that inappropriate item removed. Learn how to put your dog on a schedule, and properly utilize an ex-pen and crate. Your pup (and house) will be safe, they will practice calm behavior in the house, and potty train in no time.

I want my dog to love everybody. I'm going to let everyone he meets pet him. He needs to meet every dog he sees too, right?

Over socialization and improper socialization are common mistakes people make with their new dog. Everybody knows they should socialize their dog, but they have no idea what that means or how to do it. What your new dog needs is exposure to new people, places and things. He doesn't necessarily need to interact with them. He needs to have a positive experience with each new thing that he encounters to understand that new things are fun and interesting, not frightening and harmful. An exuberant child who pets your puppy or dog roughly can make a negative impression on your dog that could cause your dog to dislike children for a life-time. Instead, let your new dog observe new people, cars, dogs, critters etc. from a safe distance, and give him treats in the presence of these things. If your dog shies away from someone or something, don't force the interaction. Praise and give them treats for good, calm social behavior.

My puppy wants to explore everything and meet everybody. Look, she has spotted my neighbor, who she LOVES. She's so excited to see her. Look how much she's pulling to go over there! 

Last, but not least, a huge mistake that people make with their new dog or puppy is letting the dog take them places by pulling on the leash. We love to watch them explore their world, and if they want to sniff that bush over there, what's the harm? When your dog pulls on the leash to go investigate something and we grant his wishes by giving into that pressure, your dog is learning to get what he wants by pulling on the leash. After several repetitions (remember, dogs get better at what they practice), your dog will pull harder and harder to access what ever 'it' is that they want (to sniff, to chase a squirrel, to greet a stranger). After a while, you will tire of this and begin to resist. Or maybe they're pulling towards something dangerous, so you don't want to go over there. But your dog has already learned that pulling gets their way, so they will drop their shoulders and really put their back into it! It's a vicious cycle. The more you resist, the harder they pull; All because we wanted to let them sniff a bush or greet a friend! Instead, direct your walk with your new dog. Don't let them mark every tree or stop to sniff every blade of grass. Don't let your dog pull on the leash to greet people or other dogs.

Following these guidelines will have you well on your way to having the dog of your dreams. Happy Training!   

 

Posted on January 30, 2015 .