By Courtney Emken
co-written by  Bart Emken, CPDT-KA & Jen Larson, KPA-CTP

It’s pretty easy for humans to drive dogs crazy, and even we veteran owners can still make mistakes! Whether you’re getting a new puppy for the first time, or are a cat-lover convert, we’ve compiled this list for all newcomers to the dog world.

Owning and caring for a dog can be tough, even for seasoned veterans. Here’s our list of mistakes every owner needs to be aware of, and to watch out for.

#1 Harsh Corrections

Corrections are punishments some owners use to discourage “misbehavior.” What people don’t know, is that these “corrections” can actually make the behaviors worse. Punishment only makes dogs fearful, and doesn’t actually teach them how to behave.

#2 Unrealistic Expectations

When getting a new dog, leave any and all assumptions at the door. Every dog is different. They have different personalities, tendencies, and capabilities. Expecting them not to bark, or to know certain cues, even basic ones like “sit,” can lead to frustration and disappointment.

#3 Communication

New owners might be tempted to jump straight into attempting to teach “roll-over” or “heel” before establishing basic communication. This is like asking you to have a conversation in another language before you’ve even learned its alphabet!

Before asking a dog to listen to your cues, you have to understand their language. Unlike us, dogs don’t communicate primarily through vocalizations. Body language is much more important. Every owner should be familiar with calming signals and general canine-body language.

#4 Treating Dogs Like People

Treating a dog like a human will only result in both of you becoming frustrated. It’s unreasonable to expect dogs to be overly calm or never to bark at the doorbell. Part of being a good owner is recognizing your dog’s differences, respecting them, and working with them.

#5 Not Hiring An Experienced Trainer

Good training is the difference between having a pet, and having a companion. Training isn’t just to teach tricks. It’s how owners build a strong bond with their dogs. Through your shared experience, you’ll become closer than you could’ve ever imagined.

Training is also essential for building a dog’s foundational skills. A trainer can walk you through common issues like:

While these may not be problems now, you should still take steps to prevent them from developing in the future.

#6 Understimulating Your Dog

Just like us, dogs need variety in their lives! While exercise is always a great tactic to wear them out, dogs need to stimulate their brains too. Here are a few examples of mentally-enriching activities/toys for dogs:

Enrolling your dog in group training or starting nosework classes are also excellent strategies for both physically and mentally engaging your dog. A fully stimulated pet is not just happier, but also far less likely to take out any pent-up energy on the furniture!

#7 Not Researching Dog Foods

New owners might assume that food used by a breeder, or recommended by the vet are perfectly healthy options for their dog. Sadly, this is not the case. Many major food brands are not just lacking in nutrients, they’re dangerously unhealthy.

These brands pack their food with ingredients that are indigestible and toxic to dogs. Some common filler-materials include:

  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Wheat

They also add animal by-products, which have zero nutritional value, to their formulas. There are good brands out there, and with a little research anyone can plan a healthy diet for their dog. We highly recommend using as a resource.

#8 Using Outdated Training Methods

Modern dog training is based on positive reinforcement. Instead of using corrections to incentivize desired behaviors, trainers utilize tools like:

Old theories and methods, like those used by the “Dog Whisperer,” are based on the dominance myth. These trainers use fear and pain to force dogs to comply. If you’re getting a new dog, watch out for these characters. Not all trainers are alike.

#9 Rushing New Pet Integration

When you already have several pets living harmoniously, it’s easy to assume your new dog will just get into the groove of things. While some dogs may be able to quickly adapt to their new friends, a rushed pet integration can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation.

Make sure you properly introduce your dog to their new family. Give them plenty of time to adjust and make sure they progress at a comfortable pace. To ensure a smooth transition, use training exercises to get the animals acclimated to each other.

#10 Not Crate-Training Your Dog

Some people believe that crates are “evil cages,” but really they’re more like comfy caves. Crates aren’t places for punishment or isolation, but a comfortable space for dogs to feel safe in. It’s also pretty easy to crate train a dog, and it’ll be a breeze with the aid of a trainer.

If you have any questions about first-time ownership, or want to get started training with your new companion, please contact us today. We’ve spent our lives around dogs, and we’d love to share our experiences with new and old owners alike.

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Pixel the Toller by Pal-Kristian Homre

Tired dog by localpups

Cute dog by sese_87