There is a lot to think about when you first get a new puppy, and your head will probably still be spinning from information overload when you bring your new bundle home with you. Even if you’ve never had a dog before, as a responsible puppy owner, you have no doubt spent a significant amount of time and energy researching everything that you’ll need to know about your new dog, how to take care of him, and how to start training him. Even experienced dog owners will run into the odd bump in the road during the first few months of their new puppy’s life, but for the first time dog owner who is facing the additional challenge of training and managing a new puppy from scratch, some of the potential pitfalls of behaviour and training can be easier to trip over! If you’re about to bring a new puppy home or have just got one, read on to learn about the five most commonly made mistakes made by new puppy owners, and how to avoid them!
Puppies have masses of cute-appeal, and this can make it that much harder to be firm with their training and start teaching them the habits that you want them to display in later life- and that much easier to let them fall into bad habits! When playing with your dog, training them or just spending time around them, consider their behaviour, and how this behaviour will play out when they are older. Encouraging your small puppy to jump up into your lap for a hug can be tempting, but when that small puppy turns into a 40kg dog, you will probably wish you’d never encouraged it in the first place! It is much harder to train a dog out of habits that you encouraged when they were younger than it is to begin on the right footing and establish the ground rules from the start.
Some puppies are harder to house train than others, and one of the most common methods of teaching your puppy about where is it and is not ok to go to the toilet involves the use of puppy training pads. Puppy training pads are absorbent sheets that you can lay down for your puppy to go to the toilet on, before they are old enough to go outside or when they are unable to go out. Once your puppy has had all of their vaccinations and is ready to face the big wide world, you will probably be keen to get your puppy going to the toilet outside and not in the house as soon as possible! Teaching your puppy that this is what you want from them, however, might be harder. Remove the puppy training pads before your pup has learnt how to ask to go out, and you might find that your doormats and rugs become the obvious substitute to him for going to the toilet in the right place. Get your puppy used to the transition from training pads to outdoors gradually- move the pads progressively closer to the door that they will use to go out from, then onto the doorstep, then outside. In time your pup will understand that outside is the correct place to go to the toilet, and when they reliably manage to do this, you can remove the puppy pads altogether.
Vaccinations are vitally important for all dogs, in order to prevent them from contracting a range of transmissible diseases and conditions from other pets. It can be massively tempting to let your new puppy go outside or take short walks with you before he has received both of his two-stage vaccinations, particularly if there are no other dogs around. Do not be tempted to do this! Your puppy’s immune system won’t be ready for the big wide world until he is fully protected by his vaccinations, and he might pick up an airborne infection or something present on the ground simply from being in an area where other dogs have been before him. If you have an enclosed garden space that is not used by any other dogs (other than those that your puppy might already live with) this is fine!
Puppies need a great deal of patience in their training, and understanding and empathy of their mistakes. You should absolutely never shout at or hit your puppy (or an adult dog) or give them any cause to fear you. However, you must still be firm and businesslike about their training, and not give into the adorable puppy dog eyes, crying for attention and other cues that your puppy might try to use to inadvertently hamper their training progression and get their own way!
When your puppy is weaned from their dam, they will need some time to get used to the new status quo, and plenty of reassurance and affection from you as they get used to being without their littermates and canine family. However, it is important that after your puppy has settled in with you and as they continue to grow and develop, you get them used to spending time alone, not making demands on you, and teach them to understand the need for quiet time. Keeping your puppy beside you all of the time and letting them sleep in your bed, not leaving them alone, and constantly handling them and fussing them can lead to separation anxiety when they are older and need to be left on their own. It is also a much greater challenge to train them to be happy when left as an older dog if they have not learnt this while young. You might think you’re doing the best for your puppy by spending every minute of every day with them, but ultimately you are doing them a disservice by not teaching them to be happy on their own early on. You should certainly not leave your puppy (or an adult dog) alone for more than a few hours at a time, but crate training them or teaching them about a safe place that is theirs and that they enjoy spending time in on their own is also vitally important. Good luck!
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