We are all guilty of making mistakes when it comes to our four-legged family members. Here are a few of the most common ones, as well as ways to avoid them to have a happy and healthy dog!
Many of the common mistakes that dog owners make pertain to food and feeding, and they tend to start as soon as a new puppy is brought home.
Jeff Werber, DVM, Medical Director/Century Veterinary Group and Chief Veterinarian for ProSense Pet Products, says that most new canine parents try to change their puppy’s food to a better grade too quickly. That’s a mistake, though, because puppy food is high in the nutrients needed for healthy growth, and changing too fast “can result in diarrhea, which leads to concerns about parasites,” says Dr. Werber. “Keep your new pup on whatever food he has been eating. If you identify a preferred food, make that change gradually by substituting a small amount of the old food with the new food, and over time increasing the amount of the new food and decreasing the old until the substitution is complete.”
Another common food mistake is not switching your dog off of puppy food to adult food. “Since puppy food is higher in nutrients and protein for bone and system growth, puppies are receiving a higher caloric diet for a longer period of time,” says Dr. Werber. “It is much healthier for your puppy to begin adult food earlier in life to try to avoid obesity.”
When it comes to training and discipline, we all make errors trying to teach our dogs what is right and wrong. “New or inexperienced pet parents most commonly object, yell and even punish puppies for normal, natural and essential behaviors like elimination, chewing or destruction and barking,” said Dr. Werber. “These behaviors need to be redirected to the correct environment. Early crate training is a good example of a way to provide a safe place for your dog, to encourage her to be successfully housebroken, and also to help her with separation anxiety and overexcitement.”
Instead of yelling at your dog when he chews on an inappropriate object, try redirecting him to something that he should be chewing. “At the same time, give a verbal reward and a pat for chewing on the new object and even a food reward to show your approval,” says Dr. Werber.
Many owners want to silence their dogs from barking, but this actually is taking away their protective impulse. “Barking is a prime way your dog can communicate important information,” says Dr. Werber. “When the barking is appropriate, call your dog to you for a treat or reward, and then immediately divert his attention away from that stimulus. This will help her learn to interrupt her barking impulse to collect her reward, and then move on to another activity.”
Of course, don’t feel bad if you happen to make some of these mistakes yourself. Each and every one of them is reversible, and with a little commitment you can have a well-behaved, healthy dog in no time.
Stacey Brecher is a freelance writer. She has contributed to Animal Fair magazine, and her blogs have previously appeared on The Dog Daily.