Five Mistakes New Puppy Owners Make

New puppies are oh so cute, and you never want to scold or punish them.  But puppies turn into adolescents, who turn into adults with bad habits.  I’m going to give you five new puppy tips that will help your puppy turn into a fabulous adolescent and adult.

#1: Let Them Sleep in Your Bed

We all like a good snuggle.  Puppies are no different.  Most puppies spent the first eight to twelve weeks of their life sleeping in a pile with their siblings.  So the first night, they cry until they’re in bed with you, then snuggle down to sleep.

Sleeping in bed, at least as a puppy, leads to problems.  New puppies probably sleep through the night, then go outside in the morning.  Eventually, your puppy will realize he can hop off the bed, pee in the corner, then hop back up.  And you’re none the wiser, unless you find the mess.  Pretty soon, housebreaking is taking a turn for the worse.

Once housebreaking is resolved, your new puppy is an adolescent with a teenage attitude.  What can he do while you sleep?  Whatever he wants.  Raid the fridge, chew up a pillow, bother the cat, bark at the moon.

Keep your puppy in his crate, until he’s old enough to be loose in the house while you’re at work.  Too much freedom leads to bad decisions.

#2:  Not DNA Testing Your Puppy

DNA tests for pets are such a new technology.  Ten years ago, when I was involved in Labradors, breeders would spend $250 to test one dog for one single gene.  Now, you can test for dozens of diseases, physical traits, and even what breed your dog is for about half that.

With this simple DNA test, you can:

  • Learn what breed or mix your dog is (with sometimes surprising results!)
  • Information on the traits and characteristics of the breed or breeds your dog came from.
  • An estimate of the adult size of your new puppy
  • The MDR1 status of your dog. The MDR1 gene makes dogs react poorly to specific drugs that are commonly used by veterinarians.
  • The EIC status of your dog. EIC, or Exercise Induced Collapse, causes members of many breeds to collapse from excitement in dangerous conditions.
  • Results online, so as soon as they know, you know. No waiting for the mail.

#3: Not making them sit and wait for food.

Puppies are so cute, so hungry, and so unable to contain themselves.  Teach them an important lesson about control early.  Teach them to sit and wait for the OK to go ahead into their bowl.

This protects them from so many things throughout life.  He should learn that all food belongs to you until you tell him otherwise.  He won’t guard his bowl, because it’s not his–it’s yours, and you are kindly allowing him to eat it.  He won’t grab things you drop that might be toxic, like grapes or chicken bones.  He will back off things that he finds in the yard.

It establishes an important point in the pack structure, as well.  By insisting that he wait, he understands that he’s lower than you in the hierarchy, and he’ll be more likely to do as you ask for other things, like getting his big behind off the couch.

I’m not a huge fan of the alpha training method, but your dog must learn to respect your decisions, since many of them are in his best interest.

#4: Letting Your Puppy Mouth Your Hands

Puppies play with their teeth.  It’s what they do, and it’s one of their major forms of self-expression.  But it’s not safe.

Even as an adult, some dogs gently mouth people.  I’ve known several Labradors that, even into their teens, will take a person’s hand in their mouth as a sign of affection.  They are always very careful and tender, but it’s not safe for your dog.

Even if you know it’s not a bite, the guy at the pet shop doesn’t know that your dog was playing or being affectionate.  Neither do the parents of your child’s friends.  Most people will interpret mouthing as a bite, and your dog could be put down because of it.

So don’t allow your puppy to mouth, even in affection.

#5: Not Grooming Your Puppy

Puppies have short coats and even shorter attention spans.  They don’t enjoy grooming, and usually mouth the brush or take off with the comb.  Don’t let that dissuade you.  Grooming your new puppy consistently now makes the job easier when they’re big.

When you have to restrain a dog to groom it, you’re more likely to cause pain by grooming, causing the dog to react worse and creating what I like to call a “cycle of doom.”  Teach your puppy early to tolerate grooming she’ll need as a big dog.  If your puppy will see the groomer, teach her to stand on a table.  If your puppy will need baths, teach her to take a bath without too much fuss.

Bonus: Using Pee Pads

When you have a new puppy that can only hold it for a few hours, using pee pads looks like a great solution.  It’s certainly cheaper than doggie daycare or a dog walker, and you can give him more space to move around with the pads.

But you’re essentially teaching him to do his business in the house.  You’ll now have to housebreak him twice–once to the pee pads, and then again to outdoors.  He may even decide that other things, like towels left on the floor, are also pee pads, and he should pee on those.

Housebreak him once, properly, with a dog walker or center.  If you must leave your puppy alone for 4 or more hours, an older dog may be a better fit for your family.

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