I don’t know a perfect human and I don’t know a perfect dog. We all make mistakes. The best we can do is notice when we are making one and correct it as quickly as possible.
When thinking about the top mistakes dog owners make and why, I’d generally say (or rather, would like to believe) that most of the mistakes are not coming from a place of ill-intention, but rather from a lack of knowledge or occasional laziness.
The thing about dogs is they have the ability to make us better, more aware humans. If you love your dog, then you know that ultimately her health and happiness is in your hands and it’s up to you to do your best, every moment, of every day, to pay attention and give her the direction she needs to be well-adjusted in this world.
Here are some friendly reminders of things humans tend to accidentally screw up on with their dogs:
1. Not fully thinking through getting a dog or the breed before you get a dog
We’ve mentioned this before in our article 10 Reasons Not To Get a Dog. We can’t stress the importance of the fact that you shouldn’t buy or adopt a dog on a whim. Take the time and do your research on a breed that is right for your lifestyle and a rescue/breeder that is reputable. This is perhaps the biggest mistake people make which ends with more dogs in shelters. This is the one mistake out of all of these that we hope you don’t ever make.
2. Having expectations for your dog’s behavior or personality
A big mistake we hear about often is people assuming that their new dog will be like their old dog. No two dogs, even if they are the same breed or from the same bloodlines, are exactly the same. They all have their own unique little personalities and quirks which make them special. If you just got a new dog, be open-minded and let her show you who she is. And, if she needs a little more training than your last fur-kid, that’s OK. Your job is to love them for who they are.
3. Not socializing them from a young age
It is crucial to socialize your pup from the day you bring him home. And, this does not just mean socializing him with other dogs. He also needs to be familiarized with loud noises (think skateboards, buses, loud bangs) and introduced to a wide variety of people, including children. The more you expose your pup to, the more at ease they will be in the world.
4. Giving your dog full run of the house before he’s trained
They’re soooo cute when they’re little and they look at you with those innocent little puppy eyes. But, don’t fall for it! Until you’re confident that your pup knows where he’s supposed to do his business 95% of the time, do not give him full run of the house. You’re asking for problems. House-training problems are one of the most frustrating issues for dog owners. Setting and keeping boundaries from the beginning will ensure better success.
5. Not handling your dog from a young age
Your pup is going to need to be groomed or handled by veterinarians during his life. You can’t get around it. Take the time from the time he is a pup to brush him, clip his nails etc…no matter how much he squirms. Eventually, he’ll get used to it. It’s totally worth investing the time to begin with because if you need help later in life for something as simple as getting his nails cut, it’s going to cost you even more time and money.
6. Being inconsistent when teaching commands
If you want a well-trained dog, it’s really up to you to be consistent in your training. Particularly in the first couple of years, it’s important that you don’t get lazy and let yourself slip. A well-trained dog is a safe and happy dog. It’s crucial that they know to come when called, to stop/halt – it prevents them from danger.
7. Using force to punish your dog for bad behavior
Sometimes our pups can be SUPER annoying. And, a difficult pup who is consistently pushing your buttons can make you pretty angry. But, it is NEVER OK to use force to punish your dog, no matter how frustrated you might be. When your dog is consistently acting up they are actually trying their best, however ineffectively, to communicate with you that they need something. That something is usually more attention from you in the way of safe, gentle, reward-based, positive reinforcement training on whatever issue is out of hand.
8. Using retractable or other potentially harmful leads
We dedicated an entire article to this topic but the short version is: do your research on safe leads. There are many types of collars and harnesses out there that can be beneficial in specific training scenarios but, most of the time, the safest collar for an average, well-trained dog is a buckle collar (for ID only) and a harness with the leash attached to the harness.
9. Not asking other dog owners if it’s OK for your dog to approach
Not every dog is calm, cool and collected when outside. It’s fabulous if yours is! We love that! But, letting your dog roam off-leash in on-leash areas because “It’s OK, they’re friendly,” is not OK. That’s why there are leash laws. It’s always best practice to ask the owner of an approaching dog, if it’s OK for your dog to say hi. If you don’t ask and their dog reacts, don’t expect that they should be the ones apologizing.
10. Talking on your cell phone at the dog park or on walks
If you’re talking on your cell phone on a walk or at the dog park, the bottom line is that you’re not paying attention to your dog. We’ve all done it. But, it’s always good to be reminded of how totally obnoxious this behavior is to dogs and humans alike.
11. Allowing your dog to hump another dog
Humping is an act of dominance. Whether you think it’s a big deal or not, it’s unacceptable to allow your dog to hump another dog. It’s not funny, it’s not cute. And, it’s an easy, two second correction. Don’t let your pooch be “that” dog at the park. Keep it in check.
12. Letting your small dog jump up on people because it seems harmless/ cute
Just because your dog is small and adorable and you love getting all the cuddles and kisses, does not mean that everyone else wants the same from your pooch. Teach your dog polite ways of showing affection to your visitors and don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want your dog’s tongue in their ear. (This one is a reminder for me!)
13. Feeding your pup scraps of food off your plate
We understand how tempting it is to give your fur-baby just a little something off of your plate as treat. Just remember this picture when you want to do that – they will never believe IT WAS JUST THAT ONCE.
14. Not outfitting your dog with a tag and a microchip
Micro chipping is an easy way to give yourself peace of mind in case your dog ever becomes lost or, is stolen. Make sure you update your address and phone number if you move!
15. Failing to accept full responsibility for your dog’s behavior
It is natural instinct that when conflict occurs we immediately stand up for our own. However, sometimes our dogs make mistakes and we need to be confident enough to accept responsibility for them when they occur. They could be slight or, they could be more serious. This is why it’s so important that we as their owners, their trainers, their guides are diligent about teaching them how they need to be in the world and then ensuring that we’re always paying attention to keep them and ourselves safe.
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