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How to avoid the five BIG puppy mistakes (almost) all first time owners make…

“Puppies!” Squuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel!!!!

So goes the high-pitched sound of every man, woman and child as soon as they see a brand new puppy. Me included.

Me enjoying a puppy cuddle. What’s not to like?

If you look up cuteness in the dictionary you’ll see it reads, “the quality of being attractive in a pretty or endearing way”, but a better description would be “a nine-week-old puppy!”

I mean, what’s not to like?
The dopey eyes.
The Bambiesque legs.
The sweet-smelling paw pads.
The unspoiled softness of puppy fur.
I’m going all gooey-eyed just writing this stuff down.
It’s all there for you to enjoy!

Well, for the 12 minutes your dog remains a cute little puppy anyway …

OK, 12 minutes may be a slight exaggeration, but it doesn’t take long for your dainty little puppy to develop into a giant mass of clumsiness.

He’s still lovable for sure, but soon the ‘cute factor’ evaporates, and what’s left more resembles a normal pet dog.
If you really want to know how quickly the cute factor wears off, just see how other people react to your puppy as he grows bigger.

A 10-week-old puppy will get cooed at, praised and stroked when he stands up on his back legs as he attempts to get affection from a stranger.
But two months down the line, the same stranger will usually be a lot less keen to be trampled on by your clumsy pup, especially if you own a large breed with muddy paws.

The fact is, the puppyhood period (the first six months anyway) represent such a small part of your dog’s overall life. It can be as low as 1/36 for some long-living breeds.

In those first six months there are FIVE big mistakes you need to avoid if you want your problem free puppy to turn into a delightful dog.

Big Fat Puppy Mistake Number One

The puppy is given too much freedom.

Using a crate effectively means your puppy can sleep in any room. He will be unlikely to wee or poo in the crate, so you can easily move it upstairs to your bedroom, which you might well want to do for the first night or two.

Then you should decide on a suitable ‘bedroom’ for your puppy. This is going to be his main ‘rest room’ and the place where he will spend a lot of time, especially when you spend extended periods of time out of the house, at work for example.

For that reason it might be a good idea for the puppy’s main room to be somewhere away from the front door; so he won’t easily see you leaving the house and going to work.

You can start to get him used to being alone now, by leaving him in his crate in his room, while you spend time in another part of the house.

Having his own room and rest area will be comforting for your puppy, and it will give you somewhere to put him when you have to take in a parcel, or pay the milkman.

Having his own room and restricting his access to other rooms will also prevent him from damaging furniture and other items, and from running upstairs, which is bad for his young puppy joints.

Big Fat Puppy Mistake Number 2

Teaching your puppy to have separation anxiety.

No, that isn’t a typo. Many new puppy owners unwittingly teach their puppies to have separation anxiety.

Allow me to explain.

It’s common for new dog owners to take a week or two off work so they can spend as much time as possible with their new addition. This is sensible as you will have some sleep-interrupted nights (because of the housetraining) and you will be spending a lot of time socialising your new puppy, as well as fun stuff like training, bonding and cuddling him too. 

However, during the first few weeks he lives with you your puppy MUST be given time on his own so he doesn’t become overly dependent on you being there.

Think of it from the puppy’s point of view. If he hasn’t spent a lot of time in his crate getting used to being by himself, he will feel like his world has ended when you go back to work, especially if you’ve spent every available minute with him for the last seven to 14 days.

You can easily teach your puppy to be happy being by himself by regularly using just the crate, and enforcing lots of downtime.

Full instructions to avoid teaching your puppy to have separation anxiety are available in my new book The Perfect Puppy project which you can get from Amazon by clicking here

Big Fat Puppy Mistake Number 3

Telling your puppy off for doing something wrong.

In case you hadn’t guessed already, I’m not one of these fluffy-bunny, unicorn-fart-eating dog trainers who thinks you should never say no to a puppy. You absolutely should. Your puppy will quickly learn that “No” said in a low voice, accompanied by a furrowed brow, means he won’t get anything good, and “Good boy” said in a happy voice coupled with a smiley face (and maybe a treat) means he is doing something good.

That’s what we in the business call ‘dog training’.

What you must avoid doing is telling your puppy off after he’s done something you deem to be bad.

Puppies do naughty things all the time, and given half a chance they will poo on the floor, eat your slippers and pinch any food you leave within reach (although they will get into a lot less trouble if you control the environment and don’t let them do those naughty things).

But mistakes still happen, and when your puppy does any of the above, or even something worse like ripping wallpaper off the walls, it’s vital you don’t tell him off afterwards.

How to avoid making your puppy fear you

When they’ve caught the dog ‘in the act’ a lot of owners tend to say something like “he knows he’s done wrong!” (I know they do, because I’ve said it myself). The fact is, though, unless you catch the dog in the act then he doesn’t know he’s done wrong at all. He just knows you are pissed off at him, but he has no idea why.

See, dogs can’t reason like us humans, and unless you have caught him in the act then your puppy won’t know you are annoyed because he’s chewed or pooed, and no amount of shouting or pointing at the offending item will make him understand. So don’t do it.

The best thing to do when you discover your puppy has done something you don’t like is to grab the nearest magazine or newspaper, roll it up like a truncheon and whack yourself over the head with it nine times, chanting this phrase:

I

Must

Not

Let

My

Puppy

Do

Silly

Things.

If your puppy pees on the floor or chews up your TV remote, it’s your fault for not letting him out quick enough, or for leaving said remote where he could get easy access to it.

Don’t worry though; you’ll soon remember not to do it once you’ve hit yourself over the head a couple of dozen times.

Big Fat Puppy Mistake Number 4

Feeding your puppy from a bowl.

Stuey the pug playing with a treat dispenser

You can get crystal-embossed Versace bowls, aluminium clangers and plain old ceramics, but you won’t be needing any of them, because for the first three months of his life you will be mainly feeding your puppy by hand, or from a food-dispensing toy.

Your puppy’s food is a precious resource. Don’t waste it by feeding him from a bowl. You can use it for training, for playing, for finding and for grooming. You can use food to help you bond and connect with your puppy, to teach him to walk to heel, and to do simple tricks which he will love learning, and you will love teaching him.

To ‘use the food’, though, you need to actually use it.

You want your puppy eager to work for food and to look to you as the provider. I go into much greater detail about how you can effectively ‘use the food’ in chapter 5 of The Perfect Puppy Project.

Sid the puppy learning to be ok with other dogs but NOT obsessed by them

Big Fat Puppy Mistake Number 5

Failure to socialise the puppy.

As we discussed in the prologue, once you bring your puppy home you have a matter of weeks to get him out into the big wide world, exploring and experiencing new sights, smells and sounds.

This is non-negotiable, I’m afraid.

Are you feeling tired because you just finished a tough shift at work, and you were up three times last night letting your puppy out for a wee?

Tough titty. Drink a Red Bull, and get outside and socialise him.

Is it raining and windy outside, and besides your puppy is so comfy and cute curled up on your lap?

Tough titty once again. You need to get grip of yourself, shove a coat on and get outside and socialise him.

Point well made, I hope.

Seriously though, your puppy MUST be properly socialised. Failure to take him out when you know you should (and you know you should because I’m telling you to) is tantamount to abusing him.

You are potentially setting him up for a lifetime full of fear if you don’t adequately socialise him.

This blog is an extract from Dom Hodgson brand new book The Perfect Puppy Project. You can grab a paperback or Kindle copy from Amazon by clicking here.

The Perfect Puppy Project

You can grab a copy of Dom’s bestselling ‘How to Be Your Dog’s Superhero’ book from Amazon by clicking here or get the audible version here.

If you are a pet business owner then you can grab a paperback copy or get the Kindle version of the pet business bible ‘Walk Yourself Wealthy’ from Amazon by clicking here, or get the audible version here.

In 2011 Dom Hodgson revolutionised the pet service industry with his first business Pack Leader Dog Adventures, the UK’s first, award winning ‘dog adventure’ company. Now a respected dog trainer, author, speaker and mentor to pet business owners, Doms calling is to help dog walkers, trainers and groomers to excel with their marketing, so they can help change the lives of more dog owners with their amazing skills.

You can find out more about Dom and the Pet Business Inner Circle by clicking here.