10 Mistakes Puppy Owners Make and How to Prevent Them (Part 1)

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Congrats on your new puppy! I bet you are super excited to have a companion that will love you unconditionally and be there for you no matter what.

As your puppy grows and matures you are going to want to teach your puppy to have good manners, good listening skills and be respectful. These are pretty much the same skills we want human children to learn too, but there are a few things you should know before you get started. So listen closely and you can learn the 10 mistakes puppy owners make and how to prevent them.

First, your dog's brain works differently than a human, therefore, the way we train them is slightly different than the way we teach children. You'll want to keep these 5 common newbie mistakes in mind when you begin your puppy's training which starts on the very first day you bring them home. These are mistakes new puppy owners make on accident of course, but after reading these tips you'll be well on your way to understanding the best way to train your puppy!

dog licking owners nose 10 mistakes owners make

1. Speaking Before Teaching

It is easy for us to forget that puppies do not speak our language! We can inadvertently teach a puppy to ignore us by over communicating. Make sure your puppy knows what you expect of them, using a consistent reward system, before attaching a name to that behavior! You may try to ask your puppy to do something like “sit” or “down” before they actually know what the word means. Take a step back and teach them what the word means before asking them to perform the command.

2. Using One Cue for Multiple Behaviors

Another way we confuse puppies is by using the same word for more than one behavior. An example of this would be using the cue “down” to mean both lie down and get off of something. Instead, create unique words for every behavior.  “Down” means go lay down and rest while “off” means get off of me or the furniture, usually used when your puppy is jumping. 

3. Under-Exposing Your Puppy

A critical development period for puppies is between 8 and 16 weeks old. Try to get in the habit of positively exposing your puppy to novel experiences every day. These experiences can include, but are not limited to, types of flooring, other dogs, and different types of people, sounds and smells. Many puppy owners make the mistake of keeping their puppy home and avoiding exposure to environments outside the home. This may lead to a reserved, shy or fearful dog later in life. As soon as your pup is vaccinated take them on some new adventures as soon as possible!

4. Creating a Hoarder or Resource Guarder

This is a behavior that puppies can develop when they believe their valued resources are going to always be taken away. These resources can include your puppy’s toys and food and even items they should not have. Teach your puppy to willingly drop any item by trading them with something of equal, or higher, value! Make trade-offs a game so your puppy eagerly wants to give you their favorite toys and bones.  

5. Ignoring the Good and Rewarding the Bad

Sometimes we forget to tell our puppy what a great job they are doing. We are quick to tell them “No” when they are getting into trouble. It's easy to accidentally reward our puppy for bad behavior without even knowing it. Take for example a puppy that jumps on guests to say “hi.” Typically the first thing your puppy receives is petting while they are jumping. This means they are being rewarded for bad behavior. Ideally, you want your puppy to politely approach someone and sit to say “hi.” The next time you see your puppy behaving well tell them they did a great job (“good sit” or “good down”). Make sure you don't accidentally reward for bad behavior. 

There are many things we need to teach our puppies to help them get to success. Learn a few more mistakes to avoid as a new puppy owner by checking out part 2 of this blog series here.

 

In the comments below tell me one of the 10 mistakes puppy owners make that you've seen and what they should have done instead.

 

About the trainer 

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help.  The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants.  Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.

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  1. I will be picking up my 11-12 week old Maltese puppy in approximately 3-4 weeks and the breeder lives 4 1/2 hours away. Since I want to train my puppy correctly when riding in a vehicle, I plan on purchasing a soft-sided Good2Go Crash-Tested Pet Carrier unless you have another recommendation. I anticipate a crying puppy whose sound will be magnified in a car. How can I make this first experience a positive one for both of us?

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of experience online for others to learn from.

    All the Best,
    Becky

    1. Hello,
      Congrats on the new puppy! We do not advise using a soft-sided crate as these are easily chewable and very hard to clean if they get soiled or urine-soaked. This may happen with a brand new puppy. You may find that your pup remains calm on the ride home as it can lull them to sleep. I’d play calming music for your pup on the ride home. I’d also use the same crate they will be sleeping in. For that reason, this crate is recommended: https://amzn.to/2NhJme1

  2. Hello Michele! I’m writing your from Lima, Peru. I have seen all your videos in YouTube. Two weeks ago I got my first puppy ever. He is a French bulldog and his age is 1 month + 2 weeks. He is growing fast but I have noticed that is chewing everything and also I think I made a mistake, like he was very little when he arrived home, most of the time I was having him between my arms. This week is walking a little bit more. During the nights I think is hungry but I dont give him anything until his first meal of the day at 6:30 am. I would like to teach him already but I don’t now what type of treats give to him. Can you give me an advice ?

    1. Thanks for writing to us! It is always best to let pup walk on their own instead of carry them. We do want to work on our pup’s distancing from us a bit so they can handle when we are away.. Work, running errands etc.

      He is likely crying for attention or he needs to go out at night. I would not feed him in the middle of the night.

      Here’s a video all about different treats to use for training: https://youtu.be/f0TlJBst5mc

  3. Hi Michelle
    My 4 month old Maltese lives to go for car rides. Do you recommend a crate fir transporting her or a doggie car seat? And any recommendations?

    1. Hello,
      We always recommend that dogs stay in a crate when traveling. Sometimes puppies can get overstimulated trying to process all the information coming at them as they watch out the window. This can leave a dog feeling anxious and ready to jump around the vehicle. We have seen dogs jump out of the car seats and hang off until the owner can safely pull over and put them back in. Here is the crate we recommend: https://amzn.to/2NhJme1

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