Don’t worry, making mistakes when you’re a new dog owner is expected. After all, how can you say no to those puppy dog eyes, begging from below the dinner table? Mistakes are a great way to learn the ropes of dog ownership, but there are some bad habits that dog owners can easily fall into. Being aware of the common pitfalls can help you prevent your pet from falling into bad habits. Click through for the top mistakes dog owners make and how to avoid them.
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ADOPTING A PET IMPULSIVELY
Bringing a dog into your life is a significant decision that should be researched, planned and prepared for. Don’t get tempted by the doggy in the window just because it’s cute. It’s important to make sure you take the time to find a dog with the right temperament and energy level to fit your lifestyle. And remember that a dog is a living, breathing animal that needs food, shelter, love and guidance every day for the rest of its life. Be prepared for many years of companionship.
FAVORING YOUR NEW PET OVER OTHERS
Just as you would expect an only child to have a reaction to a new sibling, so should you expect an older dog to react and a new pet. Studies show that dogs have the ability to sense unfairness and favoritism among peers from their masters. They’re also creatures of habit, so a sudden loss of attention or division of your time with a new pet can cause distress. Make sure you dole out treats, cuddles and walks as evenly as possible.
NOT GIVING YOUR DOG ENOUGH EXERCISE
Regular exercise is important not just for humans, but also their four-legged best friends. While the amount of exercise and the intensity your dogs needs will depend on the breed, size and age, every dog needs regular walks. Walks give you a chance to bond with your dog, practice obedience and allow your dog to use his nose and keep his brain engaged. A bored dog can spell trouble, especially if yours happens to enjoy chewing your favorite pair of shoes.
PUNISHING YOUR PET TOO HARSHLY
If you catch your dog in the act of bad behavior, by all means, startle the pooch to snap it out of the bad behavior. But if you come home and he’s chewed up your favorite sock, doling out aggressive discipline after the fact won’t be as effective. Your dog would have difficulty connecting the action and the reaction, thus learning that you’re someone to be feared. Instead, try giving time outs for bad behavior, where you calmly place the dog in a safe, but small and controlled space for a short period of time.
IGNORING YOUR DOG'S FOOD INGREDIENTS
The old saying “you are what you eat” doesn’t just apply to us humans. The ingredients in a dog’s food can greatly affect your dog’s health and your sanity. You don’t want your dog eating what might be the equivalent to a Big Mac in calories. And you definitely don’t want to feed your dog something that will upset its stomach and result in a gassy dog. Do your research on the ideal dog food for your pooch, and if you’re not sure, most pet stores will supply you with samples. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet for recommendations, too.
POOR ORAL HYGENE
No, it’s not enough to feed your dog a Milkbone every day. Your dog’s teeth need to be brushed a few times a week, if possible. This is especially true if you have a small dog — like a Pomeranian or Chihuahua — which are more susceptible to tooth and gum disease. Brushing your dog’s teeth from a young age will help it get used to the brushes, the taste of the paste and to you poking around in its mouth. It might be an inconvenience now, but it may end up saving you thousands of dollars in the future.
NOT DEVOTING TIME TO TRAINING
A young puppy doesn’t understand manners or the ways of its human masters. Therefore, it is essential to enroll a puppy — heck, a dog at any age — into obedience training for its safety and for your sanity. Completing obedience training with your dog will allow you to control it better and teach it who’s boss. Without proper and consistent training, a dog will do what it wants instead of obeying you, which isn’t good for anyone involved.
GIVING TOO MANY TREATS
High-value treats should be saved mainly for teachable moments with your dog. Playing a game of fetch? If it returns the toy, feed it a treat it loves. If it fails to complete the task to your liking do not treat the dog. Make sure your dog earns each treat you offer, even if all you want it to do is sit still and be quiet. You want to reinforce the behaviors you desire in your dog and steer the pet away from the opposite. Treats are a great way to see results if they’re used correctly.
Next: Foods That Make Dogs Gassy
IRREGULAR PARASITE CONTROL
No one likes talking about fleas, ticks, heartworm or any of the myriad other parasites that prey on your dog, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. You should regularly check your dog for ticks and fleas, and take preventative measures to control these blood-sucking parasites and others. Heartworm is also a very real and prevalent disease that can wreak havoc on your dog’s health. Ask your vet about your options for preventative medication and make sure you heed his or her advice year-round.