5 Puppy Training Mistakes You Might Not Realize You're Making

an adorable dalamatian puppy

There’s nothing better than bringing home a puppy. Not only will you have an instant loyal companion but, science says, your four-legged family member can even help you live longer. Woof. But as adorable and entertaining as your furry friend may be, this time in their life is crucial for training. So we checked in with dog behaviorist Colleen Demling at Dogtopia to find out the most common puppy training mistakes new dog parents make. Here’s what she told us. 

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1. Giving Too Much Freedom

“New parents want their puppy to run around, be free and have fun. But all of that freedom means a puppy will undoubtedly pee on the floor, chew on an electrical cord or be chased around the house as the family tries to retrieve the sock the puppy stole. Not only is this frustrating for the pet parent, but it can also get the puppy into bad habits that will have to be fixed later on down the road. Just like with a young child, puppies need structure and diligent supervision. When the puppy is out of his kennel, someone should be watching him 100 percent of the time. The puppy should also have a leash attached to his collar or harness. This leash can drag on the floor, but it can also be quickly picked up if the parent needs to re-direct the puppy. Putting a small bell on the collar or harness is also useful because the parent will be able to hear the puppy if he starts to wander away.”

2. Not Thinking About The Long-term

“When a new puppy comes home, everything they do is the most adorable thing ever to new parents. The puppy jumps on the pet parent? CUTE!! The puppy barks when dinner is being prepared? DARLING! The puppy wants to get on the couch? OF COURSE! But as the puppy grows into an adult, many of these habits are less endearing. New puppy parents should decide what the rules will be in a year from now and implement them ASAP. If the puppy won’t be allowed on the couch when she is an adult, then she isn’t allowed on the couch now. If he won’t be fed human food when he grows up, then he doesn’t get table scraps when he begs as a puppy. By setting the house rules early, and sticking with them, it will be less stressful down the road for the puppy and the entire household.”

3. Socializing Too Fast

“The number-one thing most pet parents read about is how they must socialize their puppy from day one in order to prevent their dog from becoming aggressive or fearful. This is true to an extent, but the mistake pet parents make is that they put their puppy into situations where the puppy is afraid. They have a shy dog, but they take him to a crowded market to ‘socialize.’ They have a puppy that is nervous of loud sounds, but they walk her right up to the garbage truck. Over time, these negative experiences will create insecurity—not confidence—in social settings. The key to proper socialization is not the number of experiences a puppy has, but the number of positive experiences.”

4. Forgetting That Mistakes Are Just That—mistakes

“Puppies will chew on shoes. They will destroy things. They will pee on the most expensive rug in the house. They will eat plants. They will ignore a pet parent’s commands. They will sit down on a walk and refuse to move. New parents can think the puppy is dominant, bad, dumb or trying to ‘get even.’ None of that is true. The puppy is just being a puppy and making mistakes. He isn’t trying to make the pet parent mad or engage in a test of wills; he is just doing the best he can at growing up!”

5. Giving Attention For The Wrong Behavior

“Puppies will repeat behavior that gets them good results. It seems like a simple concept, but most pet parents get it totally wrong, and they forget to reward their puppy when they are being good and actually give them tons of attention when they are naughty. For example, the puppy is quietly chewing on his toy. The pet parent is busy sending an email. The puppy starts to chew on the leg of the coffee table. The pet parent stops looking at the computer and gives the puppy all sorts of attention in order to get the puppy to stop chewing on the table. What did the puppy just learn? When he chews on his toy he gets ignored, but when he chews on the table he gets attention—chew on the table it is! 

New pet parents need to be diligent about rewarding their puppy when the puppy is doing the right thing. Is the puppy calm and quietly standing next to the pet parent as breakfast is prepared? Good boy! Is she chewing on her bone? Good girl! Does she walk by a pen dropped on the floor? Great job!”

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Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...