By Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM
Bringing home a new puppy is exciting!
You have a new little playmate.
You might have a new snuggle buddy.
And you’ll likely be the recipient of lots of friendly wags.
It all feels like a dream until….it doesn’t.
No matter how cute your puppy is, you’ll likely discover a surprise (or two or three!) along the way.
Because what people don’t tell you is, behind those winsome puppy eyes is a friend who will take time, money, and attention.
Your life will change.
You’ll need to find new routines as you adjust to a new pup in the house.
And yes, you’ll probably need to pick a few new house rules too.
Never mind that thousands of puppies are finding new homes every year.
Dog lovers keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
New dog owners have wrong expectations.
Puppies will always be puppies, and too often, little puppers are returned simply because a new owner made the same mistakes listed below.
You don’t need to make the same mistakes.
Today I’m letting you in on eleven mistakes new dog owners make over and over again.
Because of these mistakes, far too many puppies are being returned to their breeders.
Here are the mistakes you want to avoid:
1. They don’t have adequate supplies.
Just like you require food, shelter, and a place to rest your head, your puppy has basic needs too.
At the absolute minimum, your new puppy should have access to:
- A comfy doggy bed
- Two dishes: one for water and the other for food
- A collar (make sure it’s the right size!)
- A leash
- Several doggy toys
- A dog crate
Here’s what to do: wait to bring your new puppy home until you have these supplies on hand.
2. They don’t research the breed.
Like it or not, not every dog breed is the same.
There are terrier breeds who love to hunt and chase.
You’ll find lap dogs who love to snuggle.
Some folks prefer guard dogs who will protect both land and loved ones.
There are rambunctious and stubborn dogs alongside sweet and docile pupper pals.
In addition to temperament, you’ll find exercise needs soaring from just a quick daily walk to hours of running and playing every single day.
Some dogs adore children and don’t mind the stranger.
The next dog will insist on appearing suspicious toward anyone not considered family.
And I’d be remiss to not mention the variety of grooming needs from one breed to the next.
There are hairless dogs that require little grooming and show dogs who expect regular, professional cuts.
So here’s what to do: before you bring your new puppy home, first research the breed a bit.
Look for a puppy whose temperament, exercise needs, and grooming expectations easily align with your lifestyle.
3. They don’t buy from a reputable dog breeder.
Just because a puppy is cute doesn’t mean she’s coming from a safe and loving home.
So instead of risking it at a local pet store, look for a quality dog breeder who you can purchase from.
This way you can know where your puppy is coming from.
Plus, a quality dog breeder is not only an expert in the breed he/she is raising, they are also the expert on your new puppy.
After all, they were there when your pup was first born!
When you purchase from a reputable dog breeder, your puppy will be started on vaccines.
He/she should arrive happy and healthy.
You’ll likely receive a health guarantee, and you can direct any questions you have straight to your puppy’s breeder.
There’s no middle man and no beating around the bush.
Just straight up, honest ethics.
Here’s what to do: buy directly from a reputable dog breeder.
4. They don’t consider time off work when a puppy first gets home.
Your new puppy is likely coming straight from spending all day every day with his mom and littermates.
He’s not ready to be left alone just yet.
As a result, when your puppy first arrives home, plan for lots of quality time together.
If you can’t take off work, bring your puppy home over the weekend.
Then during your first days together, slowly start teaching your puppy it’s okay to be alone.
You might start with leaving your puppy for just 15 minutes, and then 30 minutes.
Gradually increase your time away until your puppy is comfortable being alone for up to four hours at a time.
If you are away longer than four hours, look for a pet sitter who can stay with your puppy.
Or hire a dog walker to give your puppy a break partway through your absence.
Here’s what to do: Find a time to bring your new puppy home when you’ll have lots of time to spend together! Take off work for a few days or get your puppy at the start of a weekend (or even over a holiday).
5. They don’t consider their puppy’s energy level.
Yes, puppies are young, exciting, playful, and charming.
They don’t stay puppies forever, though.
One day they’ll be big and grown and unless you’ve done your homework ahead of time, they may just prove to be more than you can handle. (Especially as they go through their teething phase and want to bite and chew everything around them!)
Or the opposite could happen.
Perhaps you love action and rarely sit down.
Rather than getting an exercise pal, you find yourself with the world’s laziest couch potato.
Avoid both scenarios by getting a puppy with a similar energy level as you.
Run Those Dogs was right when they said, “A tired dog is a happy dog.”
Keep your pupper happy by matching his exercise needs with yours.
Here’s what to do: Look for a puppy with a similar energy level as yours.
6. They don’t consider a healthy diet.
The foundation of good puppy health is a nutritious doggy diet.
You can be sure what goes into your growing puppy directly impacts subsequent behavior and puppy attitudes.
Look for dog food with wholesome ingredients.
Avoid artificial colors and flavors.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask your puppy’s breeder which dog food he/she recommends.
What was your puppy eating before she came home?
What to do: find nutritious puppy food to feed your little pal.
7. They don’t socialize and train their puppy from an early age.
Mature, adult dogs don’t just happen.
Instead, they are the result of much training, lots of love, and absolute consistency.
When a puppy first gets home, he needs structure and clear expectations.
What’s expected of him, and what can he expect from life?
Find a routine that includes daily walks, lots of positive reinforcement, and occasional social activities.
As you teach your puppy social cues, take him along to an outdoor market, visit your local dog park, or take a walk on the beach together.
Keep it fun as your puppy slowly begins socializing with other dogs and humans.
When it comes to training, you could start training at home or enroll your puppy in a local obedience class.
Whatever the case, start training as soon as your puppy is home.
What to do: Start training and socializing your puppy while he’s still just a puppy. Be consistent, keep it fun, and always be kind.
8. They don’t do adequate vet visits.
When your puppy first arrives home, it’s likely she hasn’t had all her vaccines yet.
This is totally normal and nothing to be alarmed by.
What it does mean is, you’ll need to make a few more trips to the vet to complete those wanted vaccines.
Here’s a vaccine schedule so you know what to expect.
After vaccines are complete, go ahead and schedule regular doggy checkups so if a disease does occur, you can hopefully catch it before it gets serious.
Here’s what to do: Find a local veterinarian and schedule your first visit. Complete your puppy’s vaccines, then schedule regular checkups to encourage a happy and healthy puppy.
Note: when looking for a local vet, ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations. In addition, learn the vet’s policies for off-hours. What happens in the case of an emergency?
9. They don’t properly groom their puppy.
Depending on your breed of choice, grooming can vary from a quick, daily routine to frequent visits with a professional groomer.
Whatever the case, you’re going to want to brush your little pal’s teeth often.
Give your puppy an occasional bath using a gentle doggy shampoo.
Brush the coat regularly.
And depending on your puppy’s coat, schedule haircuts as needed.
If you’re feeling ambitious, here’s a complete guide to grooming your puppy at home.
Here’s what to do: Plan to regularly brush your puppy’s coat and brush those pearly whites often. Give an occasional bath, and schedule haircuts as needed.
10. They don’t microchip their puppy.
A microchip is a small chip attached to your puppy.
It serves to help locate your puppy should he/she ever go missing.
People can simply scan the chip and bingo, your contact information is retrieved.
What to do: Microchip your puppy after he/she arrives home. If your puppy is already microchipped, make sure the chip is updated with your contact info.
11. They do (but SHOULDN’T) feed human scraps to their puppy.
Perhaps chocolate and cherries are your favorite snack.
Yet feed them to your puppy and he’ll soon be feeling miserable.
Most human scraps are simply not for puppies.
They may clog an intestine, trigger an upset stomach, be the cause of choking….you name it.
So before you treat a puppy to your dinner leftovers, research first to learn if he will actually feel good on the food you are offering.
Here’s what to do: Feed your puppy a high-quality, wholesome puppy kibble to keep him happy and satisfied.
Q. How long does it take for a puppy to adjust to a new home?
Given you are providing a safe and comfortable space for your puppy to call home, you can expect him/her to be comfortable and feel at home within 2-3 weeks.
Q. How long can you leave an 8-week old puppy in his/her crate?
Start with 15-minute intervals of leaving your puppy in a crate. As your puppy becomes comfortable being alone, slowly increase his/her crate time to as much as three hours.
Q. At what age should you start crate training a puppy?
Because puppies are den animals, they enjoy having a space to call their very own. So to increase your puppy’s comfort, start crate training as early as eight weeks.
Remember, you are the one ultimately responsible for your puppy.
It’s your honor to feed, care for, and keep your puppy groomed.
Avoid the mistakes above and you’ll do just fine.
Along the way, relax.
You’ll likely hit a few curveballs.
Life doesn’t always go as expected and that’s okay.
I’m cheering you on, and I’m here to answer any questions you have.
Until next time!
P.S. Still looking to get your new puppy? Meet our newest puppies for sale right here.
Blue Cross (2019). First time dog owner guide. Retrieved from https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/first-time-dog-owner-guide.
Cesars Way (2016). Common mistakes of first-time dog owners. Retrieved from https://www.cesarsway.com/common-mistakes-of-first-time-dog-owners/.
Stregowski, J. (2019). Tips for first time dog owners. Retrieved from https://www.thesprucepets.com/first-time-dog-owners-tips-1117335.
Dr. Heather Venkat has been a veterinarian since 2013, working in companion animal medicine with dogs and cats, as well as veterinary public health. Her passion is in prevention, One Health, and strengthening the human-animal bond. A bonafide animal-lover, she competes in dog sports and currently shares her home with a border collie mix named Luna, three cats, and two leopard geckos.