5 BIG Mistakes Pet-Parents Make AFTER Bringing Home a Puppy
The excitement of bringing home a puppy is a fun experience, but many people don't realize that their puppy's overall well-being mentally, physically, and socially are dependent on their first year's experiences. How a pet-parent teaches, sets up rules, and guides their puppy will define their soon to be adult-dog's behavioral traits, and confidence level.
How do you set up a puppy for success in their first year? DON'T make these common mistakes.
#1 - Going on a Trip or Vacation
This is one of the most common mistakes, as a trainer, that I see repeated over and over again. What pet-parents fail to understand, is their new puppy is in their "terrible two" stage, growing, building a bond with the humans, and adjusting to their new environment. This is a HUGE learning period for right from wrong, being taught manners, bonding with their pet-parent, learning the rules, boundaries, and making sure they are adjusting to their new environment in a healthy way. Going on vacation in the middle of your puppy's learning period ALWAYS hinders their training and behavioral manners. I often hear how so-and-so babysat the puppy for the pet-parents, and they allowed the puppy to jump, nip, eat whatever (including table scrapes), didn't keep a consistent schedule on sleep and potty, and they came home to an out of control puppy that is worse now then before they left.
If your desire is to have a well mannered adult dog, it is imperative to stay home, cancel those vacation plans, and work with your puppy to help develop those skills you wish to have long term. Do not expect or hope someone else will take over where you are leaving off while you are soaking in the sun on a beach somewhere. If you are unable to cancel your vacation, please reconsider getting a puppy until after you return home and all traveling can be put on hold for up to a year.
#2 - Allowing Children to Help with the Potty Training
Alright, this is another big no-no. I LOVE kids, in fact, I have two teenagers, but I would never ever allow them to assist in the potty training if I wanted my puppy to be successful. Kids, as sweet, respectful, and dedicated as they may seem in helping with taking care of the puppy, often lack patience and the need to keep their attention on the puppy. I see it often, children with their puppy, doing a potty break, but instead of having their eyes on the puppy, they are picking flowers, watching a bird fly by, texting their friend, or losing patience upon standing outside. Children (even teenagers) are quick to move onto something else or forget what they are supposed to be doing at that moment. Not knowing if their puppy peed when they come back into the house, they will tell mom and dad, "I think the puppy peed," and then within seconds, there is a little mess on the floor. Not the puppy's fault. Potty training can be a difficult time to get through, and some puppies are more difficult to train then others.
If your goal is to have a puppy fully potty trained by the time they are 6 months old, or sooner, the pet-parent should take 100% of this responsibility.
#3 - Picking the Wrong Season
If you live in the Northwest, Midwest, or Northeast you really need to consider the best time of year to get a puppy. Hiking outside in snow blowing, wind gusting, two feet high snow drifts with wind-chills in the below zero readings, trying to encourage an 8 week old puppy to go to the bathroom quickly is NOT FUN. Now, picture having to do that every hour to two hours, up to a few weeks, sometimes longer. Yes, that is part of potty training. Not only does this make potty training miserable for all, working with your puppy outside in freezing rain, snow, or cold temperatures is not what anyone desires to do, but this is an important part of a puppy's stage. Having playtime outside, learning the boundaries in the yard, respecting neighbors walking by, and being taught to listen to their commands, all while outside, is an important part of their young learning curve.
Take in account the breed as well, a Husky will ENJOY those cold months while a Chihuahua will refuse to do any type of training outside during this time of year. So, unless you relish the cold blizzardy weather, winter time may not be the best time to get a puppy.
#4 - Delaying Training
Many pet-parents feel that an 8 week old puppy is too young to learn any commands. Guess, what? This is the perfect age to start training a puppy! Delaying training, setting rules, and teaching puppy to be respectful will hinder their development period (8 weeks to 6 months old). It is much more difficult teaching a "tween" puppy that has developed all these behavioral problems due to lack of an early start with training, such as jumping, nipping, chewing, barking, and much more. It is so much easier to start setting up a healthy foundation by training an 8 week old puppy then dealing with an out of control 6-12 month old teenager that is running the show.
Even if a puppy does not have all their shots completed, you can still get started on the training of commands right away. Consider hiring a dog trainer that offers private lessons at your home.
#5 - Lack of Socialization
I always cringe when I get the phone call that is referring to a "dog to dog" aggression issue. Typically, this is the easiest preventative aggression there is. Simply socializing a puppy until they are 9 months to a year old with other dogs will alleviate this problem. This doesn't mean your mom's dog, best friend's dog, and the neighbor's dog are enough socialization to get a puppy well balanced around all dogs. A puppy should meet a minimum of 300 different dogs to help build their confidence level around other dogs, and prevent any future aggression issues. Of course, these 300 dogs should be friendly, outgoing, sociable, and well mannered. Each positive experience with a dog will impact your puppy's "ideal" of how dogs interact with each other.
How do you successfully ensure your puppy meets 300 different dogs by the time they are 9 months old? Doggy Daycare! It is the simplest, securest, safest way to do this. All dogs that attend a reputable Doggy Daycare are temperament tested, and vaccinations have to be proven. While you are at work, your puppy gets to play with 10 to 20 different dogs in one day! How fantastic and easy is that?
Getting a puppy can offer a future of having a loving and loyal relationship. To help your puppy succeed in becoming an all around GREAT adult dog that everyone will enjoy, cancel those vacation plans, leave the potty training to the adults, select the appropriate time of year to get a puppy, start training right away, and socialize your puppy with tons of other dogs!