8 mistakes to avoid when bringing your dog home

A little education will help you avoid these common mistakes when bringing your new pup home for the first time.

by Good Dog

No one’s perfect. Even if you’ve read all the puppy parenting books and watched all the obedience training videos YouTube has to offer, you’re bound to make mistakes in your first few weeks of owning a new puppy.

Here are some of the most common mistakes to look out for and how you can prepare:

1. Not starting puppy obedience training early.

Puppies have an abundance of energy and are just so dang small and cute when you first bring them home. However, all of their behavior cannot just be chalked up to “puppyhood.” There are basic safety cues they should learn as soon as possible, because it could mean a matter of life and death. The earlier you start training them, either in puppy obedience classes or with a personal trainer who makes visits to your home, the earlier you can start to trust your pup in the great, big world. Take a look into what programs and resources are available in your area even before your pup comes home so you have a plan in place. Some behaviors that are cute & inconsequential while your puppy is pint-sized will cause headaches down the road. So, it is super-important for both you and your puppy to set your expectations from the get-go!

2. Making missteps in crate training.

Crate training is a great way to get your pup comfortable with their new home thanks to a comfy, cozy den you’ve provided for them. Dogs naturally won’t want to make messy accidents in a place they know as their den or home; however, if you don’t crate train them right away, or do it improperly, it could cause behavior problems down the line. Do your best to not let them out, no matter how heartbreaking their whines may be. With young puppies, you can take them out regularly overnight to help with any bathroom needs, carefully listening for “real” whines versus general ones; do your best not to reward “bad” behavior with the reward of leaving the crate. As they get older, they’ll be used to their daily routines and will feel the need to bark or whine less while in the crate.

3. Reprimanding your puppy and not using positive reinforcement

Puppies learn how to behave thanks to positive reinforcement; be sure to let them know when they’ve done something well by showing how happy you are. They want to please you! Using harsh tones or overly scolding your puppy will not always have the results you’d like it to, even if it makes you feel better about the accident. Yelling will only create a negative environment and may confuse your dog about what behaviors are good/bad. They went to the bathroom in front of you, isn’t that a good thing? Reward the good. Ignore the "bad"!

Additionally, always avoid shoving your puppy’s face into any accident they make in their home. Hearing your negative tone and associating with their pee or poop will not make them want to go to the bathroom very much; they may even start using dark hiding spots in your house as bathroom areas to avoid the shame.

4. Not socializing your puppy properly.

It’s a natural instinct as puppy owners to protect your dog from any scary circumstances. But if you pull them away from another dog on the street, they will quickly learn that there is something wrong with Other Dogs. If you don’t allow them to meet all kinds of people, they may eventually become scared or aggressive toward strangers. Socializing your dog can be as simple as taking them to a dog run every once in a while. Maybe you can enroll your puppy in doggy daycare a couple of times a week so they get used to being around all kinds of dogs. And while you don’t want them jumping on every person or dog they meet on the street, you can certainly allow their healthy curiosity to be quenched by letting them calmly inspect and briefly play with dogs and people they’re interested in. (Greeting etiquette can be covered in obedience training, and it comes in handy right away!) Let your dogs meet people and other animals as early and as frequently as possible -- puppies from ages 8 to 16 weeks are forming their first opinions about the world, and you need to show them what’s normal.

If you protect them too much, you could turn your puppy into a ball of nerves every time you leave your home. The world is big and scary enough for a little pup; you don’t need to act like everything outside is a danger. Save those reactions for when you really need to save them, and they’ll learn more quickly what’s good and bad.

5. Feeding your puppy “people food.”

It can be impossible to resist their soulful, begging eyes while you sit down to dinner. But the sooner you give into their requests for table scraps, the sooner you have a dog who goes after your plate as soon as you put it on the table. Reinforce good behavior instead of giving into a begging puppy.

While you’re at it, make sure you know what “people food” is safe for dogs. You can store unsafe food behind cabinets and pantry shelves. However, some fruits and vegetables are safe for dogs to eat, and they can make for nutritious crunchy treat options while you train your puppy. Some of their dog food may even be made with some of those ingredients. It’s important to give your dog any kind of food in a responsible manner and environment; they may still be getting “people food,” but they can earn it in other ways that aren’t associated with your dinner time at the table.

6. Not letting your puppy get enough sleep.

It’s hard being so little! Puppies can have growth spurts on an almost weekly basis while they’re still young. Beyond that, puppies are playing and using tons of energy (for such a small and young body) constantly throughout the day. They’re processing new information at a fast rate any time they enter a new room or walk a few feet on the sidewalk or in your yard. Guess what that means? They need to nap! Maybe twice! In addition to sleeping!

Mature dogs can sleep about 12-14 hours per 24-hour cycle. Puppies, who are doing and learning so much more than already grown dogs, could need as much as 18-20 hours. That’s...most of the day. Make sure to allow your puppy plenty of sleep throughout the day, potentially while trying to make sure they get most of those hours at night while you sleep.

At first, you may have a couple of restless nights if your puppy wakes up frequently to use the bathroom. They may not settle back in for more sleep right away and may need further play/stimulation in order to tucker them back out.

7. Forgetting to puppy proof your home.

Leaving too many cords, shoes and other interesting things to chew around your house is a recipe for disaster. If you end up having a more curious pup than you bargained for, you may even need to invest in childproof locks for your drawers and cabinets. The time before you bring your puppy home should be an opportunity to look at your home on your puppy’s level (yes, getting on your hands and knees) and seeing what kind of trouble they’d be able to get into -- then, find ways to prevent said trouble.

8. Make every time you leave or come home a big deal.

It can be exciting to come home to a puppy who is excited to see you. And you may feel better about leaving them if you shower them with treats and affection right before you leave. But the more you do that, the more they will learn that leaving/coming home is an emotional moment, and they’ll treat it as such. This will make the door to your home a place for drama and potential barking. If you don’t make a big deal for any arrivals/departures, your dog will treat it as no big deal, too.