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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.