18 Common Mistakes New Dog Owners Make

Written By Jill Taylor

Getting a new dog is a massive commitment and should not be taken lightly. Although first-time dog owners can have the best intentions, things don’t always go to plan. Here are 18 mistakes that a lot of people make when they get their very first dog.

Not Researching Breeds

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The American Kennel Club reports that, when it comes to dog breeds, “a suitable match is key to a happy life for both you and your pet.” Different breeds can have entirely different energy levels, grooming requirements, and personalities, so it’s important to research the right dog breed for you.

Skipping Puppy Proofing

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Part of the reason why puppies are so adorable is that they’re curious about the world. However, that curiosity can easily get them into dangerous situations. Household items like electrical cords and cleaning supplies can be hazardous and need to be puppy-proofed.

Ignoring Socialization

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You might be tempted to keep your new puppy inside and all to yourself, but puppies need to be socialized with other dogs, animals, and people in order to become confident and well-adjusted. Otherwise, they can become fearful or aggressive later in life.

Starting Training Late

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Many people don’t try to train their dogs until they’re fully matured, but early training sets the foundation for good behavior. Basic commands – especially ‘come’ and ‘stay’ – are essential parts of a puppy’s life, and consistent training will help you to set and keep boundaries.


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It’s tempting to give your new dog as much food as they want, but this can lead to obesity and other health issues. Different dogs have different dietary needs, which can depend on their size, age, and activity level. Make sure you’re giving your new dog a proper diet.

Having Inconsistent Rules And Routines

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Most dogs thrive on consistency and routine, so regularly disrupting their lives can confuse them and lead to behavioral problems. It’s also not good if two people are giving the dog different training and are rewarding or punishing different behaviors. Training can be much more difficult and distressing in these circumstances.

Not Providing Enough Exercise

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It can be easy to miss a dog walk or two, but these can be devastating for your dog’s physical and mental health. Nearly every dog breed needs regular exercise to stay fit and healthy, and a lack of exercise can lead to an obese or bored dog.

Forgetting Dental Care

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Although you’d probably never forget to brush your own teeth, sometimes first-time dog owners forget that their dog’s teeth need looking after as well. The RSPCA says that “keeping your dog’s teeth clean is important, as ignoring it can lead to plaque build-up and dental problems.”

Skipping Regular Vet Visits

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Vet visits can be expensive, but they’re also necessary for your dog, as they can catch health issues early when they’re still treatable. Your dog will also need vaccinations to prevent it from getting diseases, so visiting the vet regularly is a very important part of dog ownership.

Not Grooming Regularly

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Brushing your dog’s fur can be a time-consuming task, depending on the breed of dog that you own. However, if you go too long without grooming your dog, their fur can get matted, which can lead to skin infections and other nasty health issues.

Underestimating Long-Term Costs

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The cost of owning a dog can go up very quickly, so it’s crucial to factor this into your decision to get one. USA Today suggests that “the average annual cost of owning a dog is $376 a month or $4,512 a year.”

Not Getting Proper Identification

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Whether or not microchipping is mandatory by law can differ depending on which state you’re in, but it’s always a smart option. A dog with a microchip is much more likely to be returned if lost, and ID tags on collars can also help if your pet manages to escape.

Letting The Dog Get Bored

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Mental stimulation can be just as important as physical stimulation for dogs. When they’re bored, they can quickly become noisy and destructive and develop some bad habits. Interactive toys, training, and playtime can all help to keep your dog’s mind engaged.

Training With Punishments

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Positive reinforcement is much more effective and humane for dogs than negative reinforcement. Repeatedly punishing your dog can lead to fear and aggression, whereas rewards and treats can help you build a stronger bond with your dog and improve the relationship.

Ignoring Stress And Anxiety

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Dogs can experience stress and anxiety in similar ways to humans, which can be caused by all sorts of things, from being left alone to abrupt changes. Common signs of stress and anxiety include excessive barking, digging, and chewing furniture or other items.

Not Spaying Or Neutering

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The Washington Post states that “31 states and the District require that pets adopted from shelters or rescues be sterilized.” Spaying or neutering your dog can help to prevent any unwanted puppies from appearing in your home and can also prevent some behavioral issues.

Not Making Yourself The Leader

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Your dog needs to know that you’re in control of the house; otherwise, they may step in and take the lead. An important part of training is establishing that you’re at the top of the family hierarchy so that you can set rules and boundaries for your pet.

Underestimating The Commitment

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Dogs are cute and lovable, but they can also be a lot of work. You need to give a dog your time, attention, and care every single day, and you’ll be looking after them for a long time. Never underestimate the commitment needed to give a dog a happy home.

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