As a professional dog trainer, I get questions every week from owners struggling with their dogs behavior. To help you live more peacefully with your own pup, I’ve put together a list of 3 things that I would personally never do with my own puppy.
Avoiding these 3 simple things can help you prevent many behavioral problems that are all too common for dog owners.
Here are the 3 things I would never do with a young puppy:
- Let it sleep in my bed.
- Keep it on my lap all the time.
- Have random meets and greets with other dogs and people on our walks.
While I’d normally love to focus on the positive things to do with your dog, we know that the negatives can be just as helpful. You may also be more inclined to read about things to avoid, just so you can prevent them from impacting your life with your dog in the future.
So, let’s dive into the 3 mistakes in puppy training that new owners make and how to avoid them.
1. I would not let my puppy sleep in my bed
It’s hard to resist snuggling together on the bed, but this is actually teaching your dog some unhelpful behaviors. One of the most important skills for a dog to learn is how to calm itself independently. It also helps the dog remain at home alone calmly (i.e., no destructive behaviors like chewing or barking).
When your dog isn’t stressed out by itself, you can trust it will be okay while you go to work, shop, or run errands. You won’t have to constantly worry whether they’ll destroy something or feel upset and anxious the entire time you’re gone.
Keeping your dog next to you all the time, such as on your lap or in your bed, doesn’t help it learn how to calm down on its own. In other words, constantly being by your side means your dog never learns how to self-soothe. Instead, create a cozy space for it in its own crate, which will become its personal safe space at home.
You can (and you should!) still spend a wonderful time with your dog off the furniture! Each interaction is a valuable tool for educating your puppy and building the toolbox of skills for life.
Use positive reinforcement, and be patient. Puppies may cry at first, but they will eventually become comfortable in their own crates and grow to love having their own beds to relax in.
You and your puppy both have a lot to learn from each other. On top of that, your puppy is still discovering a lot about the world and themselves. They still haven’t learned everything there is to know about being a dog yet. That means there’s a lot of opportunity to shape them into the perfect pup for you and your family.
You’ll find that your puppy’s personality emerges more every day. Some are more laid back and go with the flow, so puppy training goes pretty smoothly. Other dogs are more challenging to motivate, or hyper energetic, and they need greater focus, training, and connection to really thrive.
No matter what they’re like, teaching your dog to self-soothe is a foundational skill that will help them with so many other behaviors in the future.
2. I would not keep the puppy on my lap at all times
Just like sharing a bed can cause issues, too much affection can be a bad thing for your dog. You may want to hold your puppy all the time, but they need to learn how to live independently. Don’t think this means you need to ignore them — you just have to focus on staying with them and calming them down without constantly keeping them on your lap.
Puppies need a lot of attention, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely incapable of being independent in the right circumstances. For example, you can set up a playpen and let the puppy play on its own for a while, not too far from where you’re sitting.
Instead of feeling like they need you to entertain them all the time, they learn to be independent and relax by themselves. Chewing and gnawing are also comforting for a puppy, so letting them do this solo in a safe environment is a good way to help them manage any stress or anxiety.
You can also focus on dedicating special times of the day to really bond with your puppy. Make these short moments you are together really count — focus entirely on each other and nothing else. This makes your physical affection much more rewarding for your dog.
Keep in mind that all of this has to be a systematic process. Dog training is a lifetime commitment, and it can be slow going at first.
Some puppies need more attention and comfort when they arrive at your home, and that’s okay. What matters is that you work on this step by step. Never leave the dog entirely alone when it hasn’t yet learned to calm down by itself. This could lead to serious trauma and anxiety that cause behavioral issues later.
One of my best dog training tips is to take it slow, be consistent, and let your puppy learn to trust you.
If you find that your puppy is particularly anxious when they aren’t with you, start by decreasing your time in contact little by little. They can learn to be relaxed beside you, then, as you increase the distance, they’ll be more and more comfortable.
Take this at your puppy’s pace. If you find that they aren’t adapting to a lack of constant attention despite your best efforts, reach out to a professional trainer. We’re always eager to help new owners find the perfect flow with their dogs.
3. I would not meet and greet every dog or person we see on our walks
I know, it’s so fun getting to meet new people when you have a puppy. They’re naturally curious and only want to make friends. And because they’re so adorable, people are always eager to greet them, too. However, these moments are too valuable educational sessions to waste and not to utilize for building connection with you.
You want your dog to become your best friend; that means you have to become their best friend, too.
The first 16 weeks are the absolute best time to build a strong relationship that will last a lifetime with your dog. You want them to build their strongest connection with you, not other dogs and people.
This isn’t to say you can’t still meet with other dogs and their owners. Those interactions are important, too! Dogs learn to play with each other by having safe opportunities for that with dogs you know.
However, you should schedule these meet-and-greets separately from your daily walks. Let the time you’re walking together be an opportunity to grow closer and become a bonded team and to learn important life skills for the future.
Be fair to your puppy, and stay consistent. If they get used to greeting everyone they see on the street, they’ll want to keep this behavior up later. Teaching them to focus solely on you and the skills during walks will make all your future adventures together a lot more peaceful.
Of course, some dogs and people will wind up meeting you anyway, and that’s fine. But if your puppy tends to pull you toward others on the street, work on building a format of behavior where the dog is willing to offer connection with you and is patiently waiting for a permit to meet others. A good starting point is to teach the dog taking and keeping an eye contact with you when there are others coming.
Eye contact establishes connection. When your puppy’s eyes are on you, their attention is, too. Praise them whenever you look at one another on walks. Treats are encouraged here! You’ll notice after just a few walks like this that your puppy is naturally inclined to pay more attention to you while you’re together.
From here, you can focus on improving their leash manners and getting more comfortable walking together. You’ll find your stride in time, and both you and your dog will grow to love the intimacy of walking together.
Discover the best puppy training tips in one place
Have you recently gotten a puppy? Are you scratching your head, looking for the best dog training tips? You’ve come to the right place.
OneMind Dogs is dedicated to helping owners create lasting relationships with their dogs by teaching you how to see life from your pup’s perspective.
Watch our FREE puppy training webinar now to learn all about getting life off on the right start with your new dog.
We’ll cover everything new puppy owners need to know about building a strong connection with their dog that can lead to a lifetime of happiness.