5 Risky Mistakes New Dog Owners Make
There is nothing more exciting than bringing home a new dog. You may have figured out which parks you want to take your new friend to ahead of time. You have new fence for your backyard so your dog can play outside without worry. You might have even planned a welcome party for when you bring your new dog home. There is plenty of fun planning involved as a new pet owner, but there is also plenty of room to make some risky mistakes that you may not have thought through. Luckily you have us as an excellent resource so you can plan ahead in order to avoid making these common mistakes that new dog owners typically make:
1. Not regularly deworming. Worms are one of those problems where the best way to treat it is to prevent it. Many new dog owners assume that it’s safe to wait until your dog starts showing symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, swollen stomach, bloody stool) rather than pay for the extra medication and visits to the vet. This is a mistake not only because worms are the most common health problem for dogs, but also because the symptoms are often fairly subtle until the infection has progressed to an advanced stage (especially with heartworms), which can lead to death. The American Heartworm Society estimates that only 55% of U.S. household dogs are on heartworm preventative medication, but virtually 100% of dogs that are exposed to the heartworm larvae become infected.
Avoid this mistake by having your dog checked for worms regularly. Puppies should be dewormed every two weeks, and adult dogs should have a fecal examination every year. It is also an excellent idea to have your adult dog on a monthly heartworm preventative medication, which often also controls other parasitic worms.
2. Not socializing young pets. New dog owners may limit their dog’s exposure to new people for fear of over stimulating or overwhelming their dog (especially if it’s a puppy). While it’s important to consider this especially as your new dog is being introduced to its new surroundings, it is also important to get your dog used to new and different people. Exposing your dog to new people and other animals helps your dog become accustomed to and relaxed around others so he is not getting overly excited and jumping up on people, or getting overly aggressive and scared. Not only does this help your dog’s behavior, but it will also help you feel more comfortable inviting people over to your home, encountering others on a walk, or leaving your dog with a friend if you go out of town.
3. Not neutering your dog. Dog owners choose not to spay or neuter their dogs for a variety of reasons, but this could be a mistake. Not only does neutering or spaying your dog reduce the overpopulation of dogs in shelters and unfit living conditions, but it could also be extremely beneficial to your dog’s health. According to the 2013 State of Pet Health Report released by Banfield Pet Hospital (the world’s largest veterinary practice), neutered male dogs live 18% longer than un-neutered dogs, and spayed female dogs live 23% longer than un-spayed dogs. Spaying and neutering also reduces the risk of cancers related to the reproductive system, as well as behavioral problems such as aggression, roaming, or dominance (excessive barking, mounting, etc.).
4. Lack of structure. Dogs thrive in an environment of structure and routine. This makes them feel safe and relaxed, and it also helps you enforce good behavior and training. Set ground rules from the beginning and do not make exceptions (this is confusing to your dog). Make sure everyone in your household knows the rules for feeding your dog human food/table scraps, whether or not the dog is allowed on furniture or in your bed, and keep your stance firm on keeping your dog from excessive barking or jumping on people when they come in. Try to enforce these rules with praise when your dog has done the right thing rather than yelling when he has not. Being clear and consistent from the beginning will help you avoid confusion and aggression later on. It is also helpful to create a routine meal, bathroom, and walking schedule so your dog can learn to trust your care.
5. Not knowing the breed’s typical conditions. Many new dog owners fall in love with a puppy they see and decide to bring him home without doing their research to make sure the breed will fit in with their lifestyle. This can be harmful for dog breeds that have huge exercise requirements, have typical health conditions that need to be addressed (bloat, weak bones, breathing problems, etc.), or for breeds that display unusual aggression or behavioral patterns and require extra training.
What questions do you have for us as a new dog owner? Leave a comment below.