Tips & Tricks

8 Mistakes New Puppy Parents Make (And How to Avoid Them)  

Congratulations, you’ve just welcomed an adorable new puppy into your life! Getting a puppy is such an exciting time filled with snuggles, playtime, and lots of cuteness overload. In my days training dogs at the pet store, I saw a lot of new puppy parents making some common mistakes during those first few months.

dog garden terrier fun

Don’t worry, though – with a little knowledge and preparation, you can set your pup up for success and be the best puppy parent ever. Let’s dive into the 8 most frequent puppy-raising flubs and how you can avoid them.

1. Don’t Treat Your Pup Like a Human Baby

I know, I know, puppies are so stinking cute that it’s easy to want to treat them like our fur babies. And there’s nothing wrong with showering your pup with love! The problem arises when we start thinking our dogs learn and understand things the same way human children do. 

Take potty training, for example. New puppy parents often tell me, “He knows he pooped in the wrong spot because he hides every time he does it.” Then I ask, “Well, do you get mad, yell, hit, rub his nose in it, or drag him over to the mess to scold him?” More often than not, the answer is yes. Here’s the thing, though – your dog doesn’t speak English! He has no idea what you’re saying. He just knows that when you see poop or pee, you get upset and start shouting. So, of course, he’s going to hide to do his business.

dog is on the couch

Continuing to punish your pup for potty accidents will only make housebreaking harder. He’ll lose trust and wait until you’re not around to relieve himself. The same goes for other “naughty” puppy behaviors like chewing or jumping. Scolding, hitting, or punishing might stop the behavior at the moment, but it won’t help your dog understand what you want.

So what should you do instead? Focus on positively reinforcing the behaviors you like and preventing unwanted ones. Praise and treat when your pup goes potty in the right spot. Redirect chewing to appropriate toys. Ignore jumping and reward sites. Remember, your puppy is an animal with doggy instincts and needs – to respect his identity rather than expect him to act like a tiny human.

happy adult man holding purebred dog while standing near window

2. Don’t Skimp on Training 

Some new puppy parents think they can put off training until their pup is a bit older. Maybe they feel overwhelmed, think it will just come naturally, or assume their dog will “grow out of” unwanted behaviors. But starting training early is one of the best things you can do for your pup!

Puppy classes provide a controlled environment for your dog to develop communication skills, socialization, impulse control, and more. Plus, you’ll learn how to effectively house train, handle common challenges, and bond with your new best friend. Group classes also offer the chance to expose your pup to new people, dogs, sights, sounds, and smells. 

Training is much easier when you start early before your pup develops bad habits. Changing established problem behaviors down the road is far more difficult than preventing them in the first place. And beyond just teaching obedience cues, training helps your pup build confidence, self-control, and a strong relationship with you.

the girl and the dog are playing

Look for positive reinforcement-based puppy classes in your area and enroll as soon as possible after bringing your new family member home. Keep training sessions short but frequent. Stay consistent with your communication and leadership. Not only will training make your life together easier, but it’s also really fun!

3. Don’t Hide Your Pup Away from the World

Speaking of socialization, another big mistake is avoiding it due to vaccination worries. Yes, your vet will likely advise you to wait until your pup has had his rounds of shots before going to dog parks, beaches, or other high-traffic canine areas. Usually, this is around 4 months old. But that doesn’t mean you should keep your puppy in a bubble until then!

Proper socialization is really important for raising a well-adjusted, happy dog. Puppies have a key socialization window that starts to close around 16 weeks. This is the prime time to positively expose them to as many new people, animals, places, and experiences as possible. Dogs who miss out on early socialization are far more prone to fears, phobias, anxiety, and aggression later in life.

playing puppies young dogs

You can socialize your pup before he’s fully vaccinated; just be smart about it. Invite friendly people over to your home. Carry your pup when out and about. Set up play dates with dogs you know are vaccinated and healthy. Go on short adventures to see bikes, skateboards, umbrellas, and other novel things. Let your puppy safely explore the world while you advocate for him.

Don’t force interaction if your pup seems nervous. Teach him to sit calmly for greetings rather than jumping. Practice handling his paws, ears, and mouth so vet and grooming visits are easier. Socialization isn’t about flooding your dog with as many things as possible—it’s about facilitating positive experiences to build a confident, resilient pup.

girl plays with dogs

4. Don’t Choose a Breed Based on Looks Alone

That fluffy Samoyed puppy or wrinkly Bulldog baby might be absolutely adorable, but are they the right fit for your lifestyle? So many dogs end up in shelters or rehomed because their humans didn’t research breeds before getting a puppy.

Every dog is an individual with a unique personality. But purebreds also have certain breed traits that make them more or less suited for different households. For example, you might be drawn to an Australian Shepherd’s gorgeous coat and captivating eyes. But if you live in an apartment, work 10 hours a day, or prefer couch potato evenings, you’ll likely end up with a miserable, destructive, neurotic Aussie bouncing off the walls.

dogs three pets

Do your breed homework! Read up on general traits, exercise needs, grooming requirements, training quirks, and potential health issues. Talk to reputable breeders, rescue groups, and owners of your breed of interest. Make an honest assessment of what you want in a canine companion and what type of home you can provide. Don’t get a high-energy working dog if you can’t meet their needs. Don’t get a giant breed if you travel constantly. Find a puppy that fits your life, even if it means going with a different look than you originally wanted.

5. Don’t Bring Home a Bad Match for Kids or Other Pets

It’s hard to resist an adorable puppy, even when your head knows they might not get along well with your family. But no matter how much you personally fall in love with a pup, if he isn’t a good fit with your kids or other animals, you’re setting everyone up for heartache.

dogs puppies to play

Some breeds and individual dogs do better with children than others. Very large or strong breeds can easily knock over toddlers. Herding breeds might nip at heels. Toy breeds can be fragile. Puppies still learning bite inhibition often play too rough for little hands. Yes, proper training and supervision are key with any dog. But it’s still important to select a puppy who has the right temperament for kiddos if you have some. 

The ditto goes for existing pets. If you have a grumpy senior cat, a rowdy puppy that wants to chase and pounce probably isn’t the best choice. Some breeds have higher prey drives and aren’t trustworthy with small animals. Others are same-sex aggressive and won’t get along with another dog of their gender. If your boxer mix at home has a dominant personality, you’ll likely want to avoid another strong-willed alpha pup. 

adult ball blur canine colorful

Whenever you add a new pet to the family, think about your current crew. Are you confident you can facilitate safe, positive introductions? Are their personalities likely to mesh well? Is there enough space and time for everyone’s needs? It’s okay to pass on a puppy, even if you’ve already become attached if you recognize they aren’t the right addition. Don’t risk existing relationships or set the pup up for rehoming.

6. Don’t Turn the Crate into Jail

Crate training is a wonderful way to house-train a puppy and give them a safe, den-like space of their own. But so many new puppy parents misuse the crate and turn it into a prison rather than a palace. If you do it wrong, you might end up with a dog who hates their kennel and puts up a huge fight whenever you try to confine them.

First off, don’t just shove your unsuspecting pup in a crate and shut the door for hours. Of course, he’ll scream bloody murder! Would you want to be locked in a strange, tiny room suddenly? You have to acclimate your puppy slowly and create positive associations with the crate.

Leave the door open at first and toss in tasty treats for your pup to find. Feed meals in the crate. Let him go in and out freely, praising and rewarding him when he chooses to hang out inside. Once your puppy sees the crate as a place where good things happen, then you can start closing the door for brief periods. Build up duration gradually while your pup feels comfortable.

puppy crate trainning

Avoid using the crate for punishment or “time outs.” Even if your pup is driving you nuts with naughty chewing or crazy zoomies, don’t angrily throw them in confinement. You want the kennel to be a happy place, not where they go when you’re mad. It’s fine to use the crate to prevent problem behaviors when you can’t actively supervise, but do so gently and positively. Give a treat or chewie to occupy your pup while confined.

Don’t leave your puppy crated for too long either. Young puppies can usually only hold it for their age in months plus one. So a two-month-old pup might need a break every three hours. Keeping them kenneled for a full work day is a recipe for soiling the crate, frustrated crying, or even injury from trying to escape. Use a play pen or puppy proof a safe room instead for times you have to be away for a stretch.

7. Don’t Bore Your Puppy to Tears

It’s easy to get caught up in all the training you want to do with a new pup. Things like house breaking, crate acclimation, basic manners – those take consistency and repetition. Some owners make the mistake of spending too much time on structured training while neglecting other important aspects of puppy raising.

Puppies need more than just training to thrive. They also require:

– Physical exercise 

Mental stimulation  

Playtime

– Social interaction

– Relaxation and rest 

If you focus too much on drilling obedience and don’t give your pup outlets for their boundless energy, you’ll likely end up with behavior problems. A young dog can easily get burnt out on constant training and will check out or act up.

Make sure to balance your pup’s day with a mix of activities. Go on sniffer walks to explore the neighborhood. Play games of tug and fetch. Arrange play dates with well-matched doggy friends. Let your puppy zoom around the yard to blow off steam. Provide puzzle toys and bones for mental stimulation. Give your pup quiet time to chew and relax without demands.

Training sessions should be short and upbeat, especially for baby dogs. Aim for 5-minute bursts a few times a day rather than hour-long obedience drills. Quit while you’re ahead, ending on a success before your puppy loses interest. If you see young Fido getting stressed, frustrated, or zoning out, it’s time for a break. Always strive for a positive, engaging experience that strengthens your bond. And don’t forget to schedule plenty of unstructured puppy play to keep life fun!

8. Don’t Expect Adult Dog Brain

Puppies are so smart and pick up new skills impressively fast. Within a couple of weeks of focused training, you’ll likely have to sit, down, touch, come when called, and other basics on cue. It’s amazing! But don’t let your pup’s quick progress trick you into having unrealistic expectations.

dog agility training jumping breed

No matter how rapidly your puppy learns, they still have baby dog brains with limited attention spans. A two-month-old pup simply can’t focus for a 30 minute task-oriented training session with no breaks. Even if they seem to be getting it, fatigue will set in fast and their performance (and your patience) will dwindle.

Remember, your puppy is an infant, not a miniature adult dog. He has so much to learn about the world and is experiencing tons of physical and mental changes. It’s unfair to expect the same level of impulse control, emotional regulation, and understanding you would from an older dog.

people adult woman lifestyle dog

Keep your training developmentally appropriate for your pup’s age. Like we discussed earlier, aim for frequent short sessions of just a few minutes each. If you see your puppy getting frustrated, distracted, or just not seem to get it, don’t power through. Stop and play, take a snuggle break, and try again later. Forcing the issue will only make you both miserable.

Have patience as your pup grows and matures. His brain won’t be fully developed until around 2 years old for small breeds and up to 3 years for large breeds. He’ll go through several developmental stages with changing needs. Maintain realistic expectations of his ability to control himself and retain training. Be kind, consistent, and positive as you shape the dog you want while honoring his puppy limitations along the way.

Final Words

Raising a puppy is both immensely rewarding and, at times, extremely frustrating. These little babies have so much to learn and can test our patience while they do. By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on setting your pup up for success, you’ll build an incredible bond with your new best friend.

a person petting a brown and white long coated dog

The puppy phase is fleeting. Soon, you’ll have a confident, well-socialized dog who knows the household rules and has strong communication skills. You’ll look back on this time fondly while enjoying the fruits of your loving leadership for years to come. With a little knowledge and a lot of patience, you’ve got this puppy parenthood thing in the bag. Now get out there and enjoy your adorable new family member!

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About Zelda D.Nelson

As a lifelong dog lover and proud mom to two energetic rescue pups, I know firsthand how important puzzle toys are for providing dogs with much-needed mental and physical stimulation. After over a decade of experience raising well-adjusted, happy dogs, I joined the Loobani Pet team to help other pet parents discover the joy and benefits of dog puzzles. Through my work at Loobani Pet, I've become an expert on the ins and outs of various interactive dog toys. My goal is to simplify the selection process so you can easily pinpoint the perfect puzzles to match your pup's needs and lifestyle. Whether you need a toy to challenge your brainy breed, keep your power chewer occupied, or simply provide some rainy day fun, I've got you covered.