Ten Mistakes New Puppy Owners Make


From their wolf ancestors, the modern domesticated dog has evolved into a superb companion- the ultimate sidekick. But thousands of years of domestication does not guarantee that life with a puppy will go smoothly. If you've found yourself ensnared by those big, dark eyes and are now scrambling for information, stop here for a minute to read some of the most common mistakes new owners make.

Buying on an Impulse

If you already have a puppy, there's not much you can do about this one. But the greatest cause of strife for new owners is rushing into things unprepared. Dogs are a big commitment- like kids who never get past the toddler stage. While ownership can be deeply rewarding, without some basic knowledge and preparation it can also be the most distressing experience of your life.

Before you seriously consider getting a dog, do your research. Read some books, talk to dog owners, and figure out the breed that is right for you. Find a responsible breeder- one who tests their dogs' hips, elbows, eyes, and breed-specific problem areas. They should be able to give you OFA or PennHip scores quickly upon request. Also make sure your breeder does something with their dogs- whether that be titling them through shows or proving them in the field. Whatever you're looking for in a breed, make sure your breeder can prove their dogs' mettle. This may sound like a lot of work, and it is. It may sound expensive, and it might be. But any added time and money will be paid off tenfold during your dog's life. There is nothing worse than having a genetic defect pop up when your pup is only two or three years old. If they even survive, a badly bred dog can end up costing you thousands of dollars in veterinary care and heartbreak. Better to put the effort in now then to suffer later.

Expecting Too Much

Most puppies go home at eight weeks of age. At that age, they've learned enough bite inhibition from their litter and are sturdy enough to embark on their new lives. But, at that age I would hesitate to compare them even to toddlers. Most of a puppy's day at that age is spent sleeping as they grow at an incredible rate. And they are not easy to live with.

The first nights with a puppy will be noisy and frustrating. They can't go more than two hours without a potty break at eight weeks, and you're going to be up all through the night answering his distress calls. Your puppy will also be lonely. His world is everything within his five senses- if you aren't directly interacting with him, you may as well not exist. Can you imagine spending your whole life surrounded by your mother and siblings, and then suddenly finding yourself alone in a strange place? I bet you'd cry too!

The first few weeks with a puppy can be pure Hell. You will lose sleep, you will get upset, you will wonder what you've gotten yourself into, and you will wonder if there's a return policy. But, the good news is they mature rapidly. Your pup should be sleeping all through the night within a month or two.

"Will sit for biscuits."
"Will sit for biscuits."

Expecting Too Little

On the other hand, it's also easy to mollycoddle your puppy when you shouldn't. If you have just taken your pup out to potty and he cries in his crate, do not let him out until he has settled down. If he wakes you up in the middle of the night, take him out to use the bathroom then bring him right back in. You want to really drive it home that nighttime, and crate time, is the time for sleep. Do not try to negatively reinforce bad behavior- DO positively reinforce good behavior and ignore the bad. Don't tolerate nipping- you should begin working on bite inhibition immediately, and also begin working on basic obedience and leash manners. Puppies may be undeveloped, but they are not stupid. My own puppy is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but he had sit down pat within the first few days. Jumping up is very cute in puppies, but very not-cute in adults. Nip it in the bud while they're young and impressionable. The first few months of a puppy's life are his most malleable- teach him as much as you can in this crucial time period.

Training Inconsistently

Dog training methods are a source of lively debate within the dog community, but one thing everyone can agree upon is that consistency is key. If you have more than one person in the household, agree in advance on what will and will not be permitted. How is your puppy going to learn not to jump when one member of the family routinely asks him for hugs?

This section also includes bad training. Try to avoid training methods that rely on outdated pack theories- this includes the teachings of Cesar Milan, who makes very good television but whose methods can be dangerous when applied by most people. When it comes to recommending a trainer, I always bring up Ian Dunbar. Ian's philosophy of treating your dog as a companion provides a healthy and stable relationship between the two of you. Always consider how your interactions with your dog can foster a growth of affection and respect: not fear.

Insufficient Socializing

The last thing anyone wants is a maladjusted dog that pulls at the leash and barks at everything that moves. A dog who can't react to people and other animals properly is a danger to everyone around him. Exposing your puppy to a wide variety of people, animals, and stimuli is crucial to development. Take him for car rides, puppy classes, anything that will have him out and seeing things. Before his vaccines are complete, hold puppy parties in your house where friends and family can come play with the new arrival. If you think he'll run into it as an adult, show it to him as a puppy. Remember that thing about the first few months being the most important for training? This is doubly so for socializing.

Socializing also includes baths, clipping nails, and general handling. Get him used to having his teeth examined, ears and paws handled, and getting wet. You'll thank yourself later when your dog acts like a perfect angel at the Vet.

Exposing to Disease

This is a big one. Puppies should not be allowed on the ground anywhere another dog might have been before their vaccines are complete. There are a number of things puppies can pick up, but the most serious is Parvo. Parvo will, best case scenario, ravage your puppy for days or weeks while your vet bill goes sky high. Worst case, it will kill your puppy, and deaths are extremely common. Parvo is transmitted through the fecal matter of other dogs, and can linger on grass for months.

But, you may ask, if I can't bring my puppy out and about until he's at least 16 weeks old, how will I socialize him? The best solution is to bring the world to him. Hold those puppy parties I was talking about. Let him sit in the cart at pet stores. Carry him where you can. Parvo is certainly a big deal, but don't become so terrified of it that you teach your pup to whiz indoors. Remember, socialization is paramount.

Feeding the Wrong Foods

Dog food is important. What you feed your dog can determine his muscle definition, coat shine, stool size, consistency, and smelliness, and longevity. A high quality food, though more expensive, will actually require less kibble to keep your dog healthier than any amount of grocery-store brands. Some brands that I have personally tried and would recommend would be Acana, Orijen, Taste of the Wild, and Blue Buffalo. I currently use Taste of the Wild as a good blend of affordability and quality.

Should you feed puppy food? If you have a large or giant breed dog, the answer is no. Puppy food, even the kind marketed to large puppies, causes bones to grow too rapidly, leading to an unstable and fragile dog. If you have a giant breed dog such as a Great Dane, you will want to look for a specialty food or carefully consider the nutritional values of foods in your price range. For large breeds and smaller, a good All Lifes Stages formula will be perfectly fine to raise a puppy on.


One day, when he was around four months old, I took Colt for a walk. It wasn't a particularly hot day, and it wasn't a particularly long walk, but when we got inside, he sprawled out on the floor panting for an hour. Then he got up, vomited, and went about like nothing had happened. I learned the hard way that puppies are not hardy athletes. Most of their energy is consumed by the process of growing.

Puppies should avoid staircases, and excessive jumping, to protect their young and unfinished joints. Too much shock to their bones at this age can lead to hip and elbow problems later on in life.

Leaving the Puppy Alone Too Long

Sometimes its unavoidable- the puppy will have to home alone for an extended amount of time. Leaving the puppy for more than a few hours is not a mistake- but setting him up for failure is. This is where crate training really shines. The crate is a safe, contained place for a puppy. Not only is it comforting, but it keeps him out of trouble. Puppies should not be trusted with loose reign in the house until they have proven themselves to be trustworthy. This can take a few weeks, a few months, a few years, or never. A crate is not punishment, it's an invaluable tool for dog owners.

The general rule is that a puppy can hold his bladder one hour per month he's been alive. So, if you leave your four month old pup alone for six hours, don't be surprised when you come home to a mess. If possible, have a friend, relative, neighbor, or petsitter come in to look after him while you are away. Give him a toy such as a Kong to keep him occupied while you are gone.

Getting Frustrated

Puppies can be exasperating little beasts. Whether he's just chewed up your most expensive pair of shoes or refuses to come when called, there are times when you will want to scream every awful thing you can think of at your puppy. Don't do it. Your dog is the product of what you put into him, so avoid as much fear as possible. Puppies go through multiple difficult stages. There are several fear stages, teething, and the 'teenaged months.' All come with their own unique challenges and needs.

The good news is, things do get better! If you care for your puppy, he will blossom into a wonderful, mature dog with great manners. The greatest joy of owning a puppy is watching him grow up. By avoiding these common mistakes, hopefully you too can have a rewarding companion by your side for years to come.

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Comments 44 comments

Ari Lamstein profile image

Ari Lamstein 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Great Hub!

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

I second Ari's comment. What fantastic advice! Your photos are gorgeous, too. I'll have to send this link to everyone I know who ever ends up getting a puppy!

Gofygure profile image

Gofygure 5 years ago from Kutztown, PA Author

Aw, thanks. I'm guilty of a few of these, so if I can save anyone a couple headaches, I'll be happy!

calmyourbeans 5 years ago

I found persistence was the key for our puppy, he really did try and push us with his 'crying', so much so that we listened to him for over 3 hours. In the end he settled down and we've never heard a peep from him in the night again.

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

Great Hub! Thanks for sharing. Congratulation for the hub of the day.

AnnaStephens 5 years ago

Brilliant hub, an informative read. Advice I shall try and remember when/if we get a dog.


Londontours profile image

Londontours 5 years ago from London

Congratulation for the hub of the day.

ronhi profile image

ronhi 5 years ago from Kenya

Great Hub. And congratulations too

stylezink profile image

stylezink 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA.

You've really hit the nail on the head here! This is such great information for soon to be or current owners of puppies. People do not realize all the work that lies ahead of them before that puppy will become that perfect dog.

The 'Expecting too much' part describes my first month with my pooch. Even the part about, "What did I get myself into?" It would be about 3am outside in the cold when those thoughts occurred, lol! I called this stage the newborn stage. It's just like having a newborn baby, with all the waking during the night. I even trained dogs and had done so much research by the time I got mine and I was still shocked at how much work she was. Thank God she learned quickly and it only took a month. I look back and laugh at all those days now.

My girl is now approaching 2 years and because I've practiced the same type of training you've described here she is a wonderful dog today! Everyone should try these methods, they work! But only if you do.

Thanks for sharing this great hub! Congrats for hub of the day too!

Roy Perrin profile image

Roy Perrin 5 years ago from Jacksonville, NC

Good hub, good advice, good pix. Good Job. I wish I could have seen this when I first got my Husky puppy. FULL OF ENERGY!!!

Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

Great advice on puppy care. It made me realize that I forgot how much time and effort a new puppy takes! I agree about teaching a puppy good manners from the beginning. A family I know used to have their St. Bernard puppy jump up to "hug" the kids. As an adult, it will still try it with family members and can flatten them easily! Great hub!

Keeley Shea profile image

Keeley Shea 5 years ago from Norwich, CT

This is one of the best hubs I've read. Very thorough! I unfortunately have made many of these mistakes - being inconsistant is probably number one! Great advice! I will be referring back the next time I purchase a pup!

itops profile image

itops 5 years ago from the sea

Great hub! Congratulations for being the hub of the day!

Elaina Grinias 5 years ago

This is an amazing hub. I'm so impressed. This was very useful for me too because I plan on getting a dog very soon. What is strange is that my labradoodle didn't have that crying stage and keep me up in the middle of the night when he was a puppy. My boyfriend had a dog just like yours and was always crying. So I think that depends on the dog.

SJmorningsun25 5 years ago

Congrats on the Hub of the Day. Good article with some great advice. However, I have to disagree with you about Cesar Millan. His TV shows are about extreme cases, not puppy-rearing, so of course his TV methods shouldn't be used by normal people, especially on puppies (and the show points that out repeatedly). But his book "How to Raise the Perfect Dog" addresses puppies specifically and has lots of great advice and training methods directed at non-problem puppies. I used his advice extensively raising my 2-year-old Golden Retriever, and she's fantastic. Great Hub on all other points, though.

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois

My puppy is a little older than one-year old now and I can attest to the fact that it is a lot of work raising a puppy. The point you make about consistency in training and getting everybody in the household to participate is crucial. I found that the one-two punch of consistency and praise make training a whole lot easier and more pleasant for everyone involved. Enjoy your "hub of the day" spotlight. It is well deserved.

SlyMJ profile image

SlyMJ 5 years ago

Excellent advice for new owners, or people considering buying a puppy. Enjoyed the read.

applecsmith profile image

applecsmith 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Whoo hoo Congrats for a 2nd day in a row! I enjoy reading your tips and info for dog lovers like myself. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas

Excellent hub! You are so right about all of this, but what struck me most is how guilty I can be for allowing bad but cute behaviors in puppies.

Congrats on hub of the day. You deserved it. You really know your stuff!

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Yes, congrats on Hub of the Day for another well-written piece! These are well-done and a benefit to dogs as well as owners. Your hubs are a great resource to keep in mind for using and sharing. Congrats again! :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa

You are becoming quite the dog expert here on Hubpages. Congratulations on another great hub of the day! This is excellent advice for anyone thinking of bringing a puppy into their life.

ndasika profile image

ndasika 5 years ago from NAIROBI

Wow, this is a great hub. It has alot of information and thanks for sharing.This shows you have done your homework and you are an expert.

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Great topic for a hub! I love the way that you broke everything down. This is such a great resource for anyone who has thinking about or just gotten a new puppy. Congrats on getting Hub of the Day!

blairtracy profile image

blairtracy 5 years ago from Canada

Thanks for writing this hub. Some helpful advie for my new puppy. Although I have owned multiple puppies before its always great to educate myself further on the topic.

kirsib profile image

kirsib 5 years ago

very well written

Luna B. profile image

Luna B. 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

This is a very nice hub with some great advice on what to expect for new puppy owners! :)

I would, also, like to add to the section about crate training that if you're leaving your puppy for a few hours and have reservations about crate training there is a nice variation that I've used on my (now 10 month old) puppy. Instead of locking them in their crate (as you normally would at bedtime), you move the (open) crate to a bathroom (or other room that will be easy to clean) and lock the puppy in there with some toys/food/water/puppy pads etc. That way, your puppy has room to move around but, is still contained enough not to make too big a mess. It, also, makes the transition easier if you decide they're ready to graduate to larger areas of the house.

Personally, I've never liked crate training for my dogs since I find it difficult to keep the crate from accidentally becoming a sad/punishment place and even more difficult to eventually phase out. But, that's just me and this variation has worked very well for my little puppy and I just thought I'd share it. :)

kikalina profile image

kikalina 5 years ago from Europe

Enjoyed reading this article. TY

shesacraftymom profile image

shesacraftymom 5 years ago

Great article!

frugalfamily profile image

frugalfamily 5 years ago from Houston, TX

Very similar to the mistakes new parents make! Great Hub, congratulations on being hub of the day!

shea duane profile image

shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

Great hub! My first mistake: I always fall in love with puppies no one wants and who are heading for the needle. I'm too soft-hearted. Great info.

Coopstar profile image

Coopstar 5 years ago from Tallahassee, FL

I really enjoyed this hub. This will definitely help a lot of people with their new puppies!

Winter Maclen profile image

Winter Maclen 5 years ago from Illinois

I really liked it. Colt sounds like a he has a great home.

Gofygure profile image

Gofygure 5 years ago from Kutztown, PA Author

Oh my goodness, I wasn't ready for two in a row! There's no way I can answer all of these, but I want to thank all of the kind commenters and the Hubpages teams for your support. :) It's been a lovely two days.

tallglassofsass profile image

tallglassofsass 5 years ago from Salem, MA

Great Hub! And I love Ian Dunbar as well. As a trainer, I am often undoing Caesar's methods with new pet parents. I love hearing that I'm not the only one.

Gofygure profile image

Gofygure 5 years ago from Kutztown, PA Author

Agreed, Tallglassofsass. I think it's clear that Cesar has a genuine connection with dogs, above what most of us could hope to have. And I think because of that connection, his methods work for him and a very select few. But in the hands of the average owner, they seem to do more harm than good.

I like the overall concept, 'Be someone your dog respects and trusts.' But it's in the details that Ian Dunbar's philosophy really wins out for 99% of dog owners.

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

Congrats on Hub of the Day! Great article! You have pointed out all the important things about raising a puppy into a well-behaved dog, valuable companion, and member of the family.

I've had dogs over the years, but at my current level of physical ability, dogs are now too high-maintenance for me, so I've switched to cats...who are equally lovable! ;-)

Voted up, interesting, useful and awesome!

Gofygure profile image

Gofygure 5 years ago from Kutztown, PA Author

Thanks, DzyMsLizzy! I have a cat also; sometimes it's nice to snuggle up to something fuzzy without getting covered in dog slobber.

Shawn Scarborough profile image

Shawn Scarborough 5 years ago from The Lone Star State

Congrats on being Hub of the Day. You provide excellent advice for anyone considering a puppy. I have made many mistakes in the past with puppies.

I think the most important thing you mention is understanding that owning a dog is a big commitment. People should be prepared before getting a puppy.

melbel profile image

melbel 5 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

My dad just got a new puppy (he's not a first timer) so I will forward this to him. This is a really fantastic hub. My dad has already learned so much about dogs from HubPages and this hub will be a great addition to a list I'm creating for him called "Hubs You Need to Read."

:P Great hub, thanks! Congrats on getting hub of the day!

Gofygure profile image

Gofygure 5 years ago from Kutztown, PA Author

Congratulations on your father's new puppy! I hope he finds something of use here. :)

htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Great post...Thanks

festersporling1 profile image

festersporling1 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Good looking dog there. And great sound advice. These are mistakes to certainly avoid with our puppies.

Gofygure profile image

Gofygure 4 years ago from Kutztown, PA Author

Thanks, both of you!

FesteringSporting1- I think he's handsome, but I may be a proud mother. :P

Ji 3 months ago

Aah, I got literally surprised with my first (14 week old) puppy a few days ago and didnt know to keep her in the crate, because it scared her. Shes still scared of it now even.

When I ignore her whines (when she doesnt need anything) she scratches up my arms, and even made me bleed once.. She yelps and squeals bloody murder when we try to trim her nails, or when we try to put her in her crate and my neighbours complain..

Shes horrible with her potty training, because even though I use very good odour and stain removers, she'll use her potty pads once a day, sniff the pad, and when my attentions off her for just a second(As I have birds to care for also) she'll hop off the pad and go next to it instead, and even though I do what has been advised, it doesnt help.

When I try to follow the reasoning on here, my mother (an obediance champion trainer) tells me to use dominance, and to show her I'm the boss. The only puppy school in town doesnt accept puppies until theyre 16 weeks, and I'm an introvert so I don't know who to socialize her with.

What should I do? I just dont want to screw her up, but shes honestly a bit of a brat and while shes cute and I like her, I'm kinda angry they got me her, especially seeing as they dropped her off without warning only 5 days after my 6 year old Cocker(I adopted her when she was a year old) passed away from a snake bite, and I never got to have time to properly mourn.

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