Top Ten Mistakes Dog Owners Make [You Need To Avoid]

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[Updated August 2019]

Are you thinking of becoming a dog owner?  Be sure to check out this list of the top ten mistakes dog owners make.  By knowing what they are you’ll be able to avoid them and have a great start at becoming a first-time dog owner.

Bringing home a new puppy or dog for the first time is exciting.  You’ll have a new best friend to cuddle and play with, and someone who will greet you at the door when you come home.

Exciting as it is, dog ownership is hard work and a huge responsibility!

Many first-time dog owners underestimate just how hard it can be, and become overwhelmed and end up making mistakes.

I myself am a first-time dog owner, and even after doing my research and getting prepared for dog ownership, I have found myself making mistakes along the way.

The thing is, you are never really prepared for what comes your way. Every dog is different and there are challenges and unpredictable moments to face.

Hopefully, this list will help you be a great dog owner and will help you raise a well-behaved canine companion.

Top Ten Mistakes Dog Owners Make

If you are a first-time dog owner, make sure to avoid the following mistakes.  If you are a seasoned dog owner, find out if you are guilty of making any of these mistakes.

1. Choosing The Wrong Breed, Buying Based On Looks

Black Lab puppy looking at you.

Many people simply choose a dog or puppy that looks cute and adorable and don’t realize what the dog will actually be like.

A cute dog or puppy comes with a personality and exercise needs, that need to be matched up with your lifestyle.

For instance, if you are an active person who likes to run or go for long hikes, then you will want a breed that is highly active and has a lot of exercise requirements.

Someone who is only home for a few hours a day will not be a good match for a breed like a Husky, that needs to run a few miles a day.

A smart dog owner will do their research beforehand and will know everything about a certain breed before deciding if that breed is right for them.

If you are looking to add a dog to your family and have small children, you need to make sure that the dog will get along well with kids.

A person who has allergies will not do well with a dog that sheds a lot and will want to look for a hypo-allergenic breed.

All puppies are cute, but you need to be aware of what the puppy will grow into.

A great resource is the American Kennel Club website.  You can select the breed that you are interested in and it will tell you everything you need to know about that breed.  You can also filter breeds by size, amount of shedding, barking level and more.

2. Not Socializing And Training Your Puppy

Rough coated Dachshund walking on leash beside owner.

It is very important to socialize a puppy in order for the puppy to grow up to be a friendly dog.

When you get a puppy, usually at 8 weeks, they have already had some socialization, and that socialization window ends at around 12-16 weeks of age.

It is extremely important to allow that puppy to experience as many positive things as possible.  Things like meeting other dogs (large and small), people (old and young, in wheelchairs, with umbrellas etc.), and to experience loud noises (cars and trucks driving by, vacuum cleaners, etc.), this will all help to ensure a friendly dog.

Not socializing your dog and not letting them experience new sights and sounds will make them fearful and often times they will react aggressively.

Training your puppy should start the very first day you bring them home. It is important to be consistent with training and always use positive reinforcement.

Every dog should know the basic training commands, such as sit, stay, come, down, leave it, and no. Basic training ensures your dog will be well-behaved and safe.

If you have a dog that lacks training, remember that it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

A well-trained and well-socialized dog will be more welcome by your friends and family and you will be able to take your dog to public places without having to worry about how your dog will react.

3. Not Providing Enough Exercise And Mental Stimulation

Border Collie running with rope toy in mouth.

Every dog needs some form of exercise and mental stimulation. Some breeds do require more exercise than others, but most dogs need more than just a simple walk, or to be let out in the yard.

Often times owners just let their dogs go out in the yard by themselves and think that is enough for them, but this is not true. Dogs need to be walked and they enjoy getting outdoors and smelling stuff, it is their way of exploring.

Dogs need mental stimulation as well, and this can be done by playing games with them, doing obedience training, or taking your dog to an agility course.

Find out other ways that you can provide your dog with mental stimulation.

If you work all day, instead of leaving your dog home alone you could hire a dog walker, or take your dog to doggie daycare. Your dog will be happy to be walked and to be able to play with other dogs.

By not providing your dog with enough exercise and mental stimulation on a daily basis, your dog will become hyperactive, develop unwanted behaviour problems, such as chewing, excessive barking and become restless and bored. Not to mention your dog will not be healthy.

Remember that a properly exercised dog both mentally and physically will be calmer, happier and more well-behaved. As the saying goes, “a tired dog is a good dog”.

Here is a short video of a dog that was left home alone while the owner was away.  Guess what the owner came home to?  A huge mess!!

4. Not Setting Rules And Being Inconsistent

Small white dog laying on blue striped chair.

Before you bring home your new puppy or dog you need to first establish some rules and boundaries that everyone in your household will follow. You need to decide what the dog will be allowed to do and what it will not be allowed to do.

Will the dog be allowed on the furniture? When will the dog be fed? Who will train and exercise the dog? All the house rules need to be set and agreed upon by everyone involved in the dog’s life. When everyone follows the same rules it leads to greater success.

If a member of your household allows the dog on the furniture, and then you punish the dog for being on the furniture the dog will be very confused and will not know who to listen to. You need to be consistent with the rules, do not make a rule one week and then let your dog break that rule the next week.

Dogs are pack animals and naturally look to a pack leader to feel safe and secure. When you bring your new puppy home you need to establish yourself as the pack leader and show them what is right and wrong. If you fail to establish yourself as the leader, your dog will assume that he is the alpha and will run the show doing whatever he wants and will ignore your commands.

Dogs are creatures of habit, they are happier and feel more secure when they are in a consistent environment. It is important to establish a routine with your dog by always feeding, walking, and training him at the same time each day.

5. Improper Nutrition/Overfeeding

Boston Terrier jumping up on table looking at cookies in a bowl.

Always feed your dog the best food possible. Not all dog food is created equal. You really need to read the labels and look at the ingredients and do your research.

There are many breed-specific dog foods, and dog foods for certain stages in your dog’s life, such as puppy, adult and senior. Many dog foods are for certain health conditions as well, for instance, if your dog has allergies there are limited ingredient foods etc. It is important to discuss the options with your vet to determine the best food for your dog.

So many dogs are overweight, and this is not the dog’s fault it is the owners. Overfeeding your dog will lead to many health problems and can shorten your dog’s life.

So many owners feed their dog human food from the table.  They find themselves not being able to resist their dog’s sad eyes staring at them while they eat, and they just can’t say no.

I have made this mistake myself in the beginning, and my dog became slightly overweight and had developed allergies. It has since been a struggle to get her down to her ideal weight, and after about 5 months she is at a healthy weight. I will never make that mistake again.

6. Skipping Regular Vet Visits

Small white dog being held by owner at vet's office.

So many dog owners make the mistake of not taking their dog to the vet for a regular routine check-up. They will often wait to go to the vet when their dog is sick or something is wrong. They feel that their dog is healthy and don’t want to stress their dog out or inconvenience themselves by going to the vet. Also, they want to avoid the costly expense.

This is a huge mistake. You are not doing your dog any favours by not going to the vet. Your vet is key to keeping your dog healthy.

A routine check will allow your vet to detect any small health issues before they become bigger issues and bigger expenses. So many times our dogs will not show any signs of illness until the pain becomes unbearable.

Often times a vet will be able to notice something that you may have missed. It is best to go to the vet as soon as you notice that something is not right with your dog, don’t wait until the issue worsens.

Your dog will likely experience many minor dog problems that you can easily treat at home, with your vet’s approval of course.  Problems like upset stomach, diarrhea, and itchy ears to name a few.

7. Not Considering The Cost And Expenses

White Golden Retriever puppy laying on grass with a tennis ball in front of him.

Owning a dog costs a lot of money. If you are bringing a new puppy home, the first year of your puppy’s life is the most expensive.

You have to consider all the supplies that you need, such as a crate, bedding, toys, food, leashes, and extras such as training and obedience classes. The vet bills in the first year are expensive, there will be puppy shots, and spaying and neutering if you decide on that.

You have to consider emergency expenses as well. If your dog unexpectedly gets sick and you need to go to an emergency vet after hours, emergency vets will charge more than a regular vet.

Dogs are much like children and can suddenly become sick and need veterinary attention. It is always best to keep a budget for emergency expenses.

8. Ignoring Behavior Problems

Yellow Lab jumping up on owner.

Often times dog owners assume that their dog will grow out of their bad behaviours. For instance, if you have a lab puppy that is jumping up on people, and you don’t do anything to correct it, thinking it is just a puppy and it will grow out of it. This puppy will grow up to be a big dog jumping up on people, and because you allowed this bad behaviour it will be more difficult to correct.

Another example is, your puppy digging in the backyard, or barking at night.  If you are not doing anything to correct the behaviour now, your dog will not know to stop and will continue this behaviour until you do something about it.

9. Risking Losing Their Dog

Golden Retriever walking on a paved road carrying a stuffed duck toy.

So many dogs run away and get lost, and end up at shelters without ever being found.

It is very important to always know where your dog is and to have a collar and ID tag that is updated with your current address and phone number on your dog at all times.

You can take the extra step and get your dog microchipped, helping you to become reunited with your dog if lost.

Dogs can run away for several reasons, such as fear, loud noises such as fireworks, hunting instincts, being in heat, or exploring.  It is important to be a responsible dog owner by keeping your dog supervised, on a leash, and having a fenced yard.

10. Neglecting Grooming Needs

Black dog being shampooed in a bathtub by a woman.

Some dogs require more grooming than others, but it is important to meet your dog’s grooming needs.

All dogs need to be brushed, bathed, have their ears cleaned and nails trimmed. It is important for their overall well-being.

If you have a dog that sheds a lot, for instance, a Golden Retriever, then you can minimize shedding by brushing your dog regularly. Certain breeds require their coats to be trimmed regularly to keep them looking their best.

Some grooming can easily be done by you at home and will help to strengthen the bond with your dog, and you may also wish to take your dog to a professional groomer.

Meeting your dog’s grooming requirements will not only keep your dog healthy and smelling and feeling great, but it will keep your house cleaner and smelling good as well.

Final Thoughts

After reading this article I hope that you have become aware of the top ten mistakes that dog owners make, and will learn to avoid them.

Dog ownership is one of the most rewarding experiences, and it certainly comes with its challenges. I have found myself making some mistakes, and I have learned from them.

Remember that we are all human and mistakes will be made, but if you have read this article you will have a greater chance at succeeding.

Are You Guilty Of Making These Mistakes?

What mistakes have you made as a dog owner?  Are there any other mistakes that you have made, or have seen other dog owners make?

Let me know in the comments below.  I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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28 thoughts on “Top Ten Mistakes Dog Owners Make [You Need To Avoid]”

  1. My roommate just got a dog, and I was so happy to come across your article.  I have to say, thankfully, we knew most of the items on the list.  The socialization part was very informative.  I’m really grateful because he’s such a good boy, but we want him to be the BEST boy ever!  LOL!  Neither one of us are very experienced in dog ownership, so we really need all the help we can get, and your site has been BOOKMARKED!  Thanks so much!

    • Hi Babsie,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience.  It sounds like you are doing well because you knew everything on the list, and what not to do.

      All the best to you and your roommate.  Feel free to check out my website for more helpful tips and advice.


  2. Thank you for that wonderful post.  I still can’t believe so many people leave their dogs alone and unattended for so many hours a day, then just let them go outside when they come home from work and expect that to be enough attention for the dog.  I hope this post opens  a lot of eyes!

    • Hi Ken,

      I hope this post helps people realize the mistakes that they may be guilty of and opens their eyes too.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


  3. I used to be a dog owner and honestly, I made some of these mistakes. First, I didn’t really understand anything about dogs, I just wanted one because many people owned dogs. When I got him, he was a bit bad-mannered, instead of training the pooch, I didn’t give him much attention.  He became sick and I thought it was sad. He left gone and never returned again. I felt really bad after and I learned a lot about dogs, I’m planning on getting another dog and your post is truly helpful. Thanks a bunch.

    • Hi Henderson,

      It is a sad reality but you have described so many dog owners!  So many irresponsible people decide to get a dog that they simply cannot care for and the dog is neglected.  Shelters are overrun with dogs that have been neglected, ran away, or have been dumped.  It is never the dog’s fault, it is always the owner.

      I hope that you have learned your lesson about dog ownership and that you take it seriously.  Owning a dog is not just for a day or a week, it is for the dog’s life.  Dogs require love and a great home, if you cannot provide those things, you should think twice.

      Thanks for sharing your experience.


  4. This article is beneficial information for anyone looking to buy and or train their new puppy! My experience as a dog lover and owner is that everyone is different and the way they train their animals differ as well. Lots of people go through the video you have posted and others keep their animals in a cage, or at least safe. Everyone deserves to have the love of an animal but information like this is critical to both the trainer and its pet. 

    • Hi Trevor,

      Yes everyone has different ways of training a puppy or dog, and every dog will be different in the way they act and behave.  The video I posted just shows what so many dog owners come home to when they leave their puppy or dog unattended.  The dog in the video was clearly bored and released his energy into destroying the house.  Something many dog owners can relate to, and something all dog owners do not want to happen.

      Many dog owners leave their dogs in a crate all day which is also not a good idea.  Hiring a dog walker or taking your dog to doggie daycare is a better alternative.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and taking the time to comment.


  5. Oh! I have really erred on some of the ten mistakes that we dog owners make. Maybe because I’m just getting started as an adoptive parent for a dog.  But I know definitely that I picked the right choice of dog but concerning stating rules and being strict with them, erred on that and I guess that’s the reason my dog acts up so bossy sometimes towards me. Also, due to my work stress, I do tend to miss out on her meals and it makes for inconsistency. I think those are the two areas I have problems with. Great post though!

    • Hi RoDarrick,

      You’re not alone in making mistakes.  It is good that you have recognized the mistakes that you are making and now you can work on improving them.  I am sure in time everything will work out for you.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  6. Hi Jenny, 

    I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I now realize some of my mistakes which I was not aware of. Honestly, I did not know that my dog needs mental stimulation, I will try to work on that more. I am very grateful for you sharing these useful tips, dogs are our best friends and sometimes we forget about their needs, this is something definitely worth reading.

    • Hi Daniel,

      I think that every dog owner has made some kind of mistake when raising a puppy or dog.  I certainly have.  

      So many people are unaware of having to provide their dog with mental stimulation.  Dogs get bored easily and need some brain activity to keep them entertained and stimulated.  It honestly doesn’t take that much to stimulate your dog’s mind.  You can simply go on a different walking route to let your dog take in new sights and smells, or teach your dog some new tricks, or play different games with your dog.  

      By providing mental stimulation for your dog on a daily basis, you will notice a huge difference.  Your dog will be calmer, happier, tired, and less likely to be destructive.

      Hope this helps you out.  Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  7. We are already dog owners but I have been thinking a lot about adopting a second pup (I have a soft spot for huskies and there’s one looking for a home at our local humane society). My partner has been politely reminding me of how much work goes into training a new addition to the family and your post reminded me of some of the mistakes we first made when we adopted our last husky (mainly the inconsistency of rules between how I wanted to train the pup and how my brother wanted to train him). I’m going to bookmark your page and make sure I come back to it when we do decide to add a new furry companion to our family. Thank you! 

    • Hi Tucker,

      Many people say the second dog is easier because you know more and you have learned from your mistakes.  I am on my first dog and I already know what I would and would not do the next time.

      Huskies are great dogs, and very active.  I am sure if and when you decide to get a second pup it will be easier for you.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  8. This is a good list of issues for a potential dog owner to be aware of. Too many dogs wind up either at the shelter or abandonned somewhere because the owners didn’t inform themselves of the effort and expense that is involved in owning a dog. I’d add another mistake onto the list that too many dog owners make, and that’s having more dogs than they can reasonably look after. A lot of dogs suffer by having owners who hoard animals.

    • Thank you for bringing another common dog owner mistake to my attention.  Yes, some people often own more dogs than they can take care of.  Dogs really do need human interaction and affection, and some breeds crave it more than others.  When you see owners with multiple dogs who are not taken care of, it is just sad and wrong.  

  9. Wow the collar and ID Tag should be a must to avoid any risks related to losing your dog. It’s also true that you need to be consistent. CONSISTENCY seems to be king in all works of life, because you cannot do without it. And exercises to stimulate your dogs, yet another great tip I had never thought about.

    This post was loaded with great tips on raising dogs. And the one you were carrying on your post, such an adorable cutie. Thanks for sharing this ton of information. I learned a lot.

    • Thank you, yes being consistent is the key to success.  I am so glad that you learned some valuable information from this post.  So many people think that exercise is enough for a dog, and often overlook the fact that dogs need mental stimulation as well.  Thanks for your comment.

  10. Fantastic article that I think should be a requirement for every new dog owner to read about prior to purchasing a dog!! So many people buy dogs because they think they’re cute or see them on tv (husky breeds – Game of Thrones) and don’t realize the amount of work that it takes to train them and care for them properly – which leads them to dropping them off at the pound because they can’t handle the dog anymore.

    Expenses in the first year are a lot, but they can also be a lot down the road too.  My dog is 10 now, and in the last year, I have spent over $3000 on vet bills and medication for her.  The end years need to be considered as well.  

    One thing I’ve seen people do is encourage bad behaviour in dogs because they think it’s cute.  Like barking at lightening.  That’s fun for a moment until you want to sleep and there;s a storm at 3:00am.  I think there should be a test required for all dog owners to ensure they will be responsible with raising and caring for their pet.  Having a well behaved dog is important not only for the dogs sake, but it could also pose to be harmful for people as well.  And that’s not the dogs fault – it’s the stupid owners fault!! lol

    • Hi Nicki, you really raise some great points.  When dogs get older, those expenses should be considered as well, often times owners will get rid of a dog just because of age and health issues.  This is really upsetting to me, and I just can’t imagine how someone can do that.  A dog is a huge responsibility, and becomes part of your family, I agree there should be a test required for owning a dog.  Thanks for your comment.

  11. I’ve made quite a few of these mistakes with previous dogs. We now have two rescue dogs that are absolutely wonderful and we really focused on training them to be well-behaved. I have to admit, I still feed them bits of chicken and beef while I’m cooking, as well as tomato ends (they are obsessed with them), but overall, we’ve done well. I even managed to teach my Rotteiler/Shepherd/Something cross to leave the chickens alone! He just “helps” by pouncing near them so they run back to the coop if they get out.

    • Thanks for commenting.  I believe all dog owners make some mistakes along the way, I have myself, but we all learn from them.  It sounds like you are doing well with your 2 rescue dogs, and thats great that they are able to eat chicken and beef without any issues.  My dog Ellie is allergic to both chicken and beef. 

  12. I’ve never owned a dog (well, had one when I was a kid but didn’t really take of it much – my parents did) but these are good things to keep in mind. I think a big thing here is the costs involved of having a dog. We don’t realize how much having a dog actually costs. With grooming, vet vists, food and amount of attention it needs daily, it is quite expensive to own a dog. Obviously some cities more than others. One thing I’ve found in big cities is that they find it hard to walk the dogs. I mean there just aren’t beautiful parks or walking areas where they can walk dogs. In these cases they usually walk their dogs in their treadmill (which is hilarious). Haha, wonder if this affects the dog in any way.

    • Wow, you raise a good point of owning a dog in the city, and the fact that people walk their dogs on treadmills.  I have never heard of that, thats crazy.  I would certainly say that not taking your dog outside for walks and fresh air, is not good for the dog, and I am hoping you are joking.  Such a good example of people making mistakes with their dogs, not knowing their surroundings and not having their dogs best interests, and basic needs in mind.  

  13. Hello Jenny, I really like this post. I think you hit the mistakes owners make with their dogs right on the head. I have made countless errors with my dog such as ignoring behaviour issues and sometimes skipping regular vet visits. For me I regret not taking such issues serious because it nearly killed my dog. My biggest advice is people should take your advice serious and take massive action.

    • Being a dog owner is hard work, and a lot of times it is trial and error. I wrote this article to make people aware of the top mistakes that dog owners make, and that these mistakes can have serious outcomes. In your case you nearly lost your dog. I hope people reading this will be aware of the mistakes and avoid making them. Thank you for your comment Kuu.

  14. Hi Jenny,

    Excellent article, I found it fascinating!
    The mistakes you have listed in the article are really familiar to me. I have two big dogs, and the problem is that they attack other dogs when we go for a walk. I always have to be accompanied by a family member. Otherwise, it’s impossible alone. I really need to take them to a dog trainer because we all suffer from it.
    Anyway, thank you for the tips!
    Just a question. Could you recommend me good training for dogs that can be applied from home? This would help me a lot:)

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Daniella,  thanks for your comment.  First and foremost is being patient and calm with your 2 big dogs, remember that dogs will sense your reactions or emotions and can react based on them.  If you are nervous or scared they will sense that and react that way as well, if you are calm they will display a calm energy.  You can easily train your 2 dogs at home, keep training sessions short 10-15 minutes a day, and always use positive reinforcement.  Check out my article on Basic Puppy Commands – Every Dog Should Know.   Hope this helps you out, all the best to you and your 2 dogs.


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