If you’ve never owned a dog before, the excitement of bringing home your new companion can be one of the most exhilarating moments of your life. Dogs are lifelong friends, perfect for anyone struggling with loneliness, heartbreak, recovery, or illness. Dogs teach us and our children to be caring and responsible. Owning a dog can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life. If you’re not prepared, however, that exhilaration can soon turn to unease and unhappiness – for both you and your new dog. If you want to get your relationship with your new dog off to the right start, avoid these common mistakes that many first-time owners make.
Failing to match dog to lifestyle
Before you even bring your new dog home you can make the biggest mistake you can possibly make – failing to match your dog to your lifestyle.
Different dogs require different levels of activity and space. A German Shepherd, for instance, requires a larger living area and much more exercise than a Bichon Frise. If you are pressed for time, live in a small apartment, or live a sedentary lifestyle, don’t bring home a dog that needs more from you than you can provide. If you have moderate to severe allergies, don’t bring home a dog that has a lengthy coat that sheds. If you are getting a dog to be a running partner, don’t get a bulldog. You see the point here – it’s vital to get a dog that matches your lifestyle.
Being too hands-off at first
You dog will need to learn early on that it’s ok to be touched, picked up, and held. Many first time owners think that the attention a puppy gives them means that they are on their way to being fully socialized. This isn’t exactly true. Owners need to be hands-on with their dogs, exposing them to practices that will teach them to be comfortable in all situations.
“The best thing you can do to prepare your dog for all of this necessary attention is to get him used to having all parts of his body handled. He should be willing to let you touch him anywhere, including his paws and more private areas,” says VetStreet.
Brush your dog’s teeth, trim their nails, give them baths, and brush their coat. Not only will this improve your dog’s overall health, but it will get them used to being touched in all sorts of ways.
Failing to establish boundaries
If you want your dog to be well-behaved, you must set rules and stick to them.
“Before you bring a new dog or puppy into the house, sit down with members of the household and decide what the dog will and will not be allowed to do. Choose where the dog will sleep, if it can be on the furniture, when it will be fed, walked, exercised and by whom. Setting the rules and making sure everyone follows them is a big key to success,” says iHeartDogs.com.
Changing the rules confuses dogs and sets them up for failure. Dogs are not human, and they can’t read you mind. They need boundaries in order to function as well-behaved and happy pets.
One main boundary involves food. Don’t feed your dog table scraps. Don’t give them human food. Not only can some food harm dogs, but teaching your dog that human food is fair game early on can lead to behavioral issues like aggression down the road.
If you do the research to find the right dog for your lifestyle, begin to bond with your dog from day one, and set strict rules that every member of the household can follow, you’ll be well on your way to owning a happy, healthy, and well-behaved dog.