The family around the block got a new Jack
Russell puppy. Ive been jogging my Border Collie mix
past their house for over a year now, and we usually see
their spaniel mix tied out in the backyard. When I saw
the new puppy tied to the tree out front it was the first
time I saw the two boys that the dogs belong to. They
had longish hair, and washed-out blue eyes. One was school-aged,
ten or so, and the other about four. When I came upon
them they were playing with a stick, letting the puppy
get a hold before pulling it away. The pup growled and
yipped cheerfully. All seemed well. Except for one minor
detail. The older boy kept yelling, Shut up, Hope! over
his shoulder at the older dog, who watched with sad eyes,
barking desperately from the backyard, where she was tied
against the fence.
The puppy saw Harry and me, and dove toward
us. We stopped to visit for a few minutes, and I petted
the squirmy puppy. I asked the boys about their other
dog in the backyard, but they were more eager to talk
about the new addition. The other dog isnt well-mannered,
they complained. Thats why she has to stay tied up in
the back. As I take my leave, I know inside that this
puppy is doomed. I wish I could sit down with those boys
and have a heart-to-heart about their dogs. But since
I cant, I will instead reach out to cyberspace, to those
of you thinking of joining the ranks of dog owners. To
you, who dream of the loyal dog with his head in your
lap at the fireplace, I want to tell you, its a great
dream. I love those moments with Harry, but theres a
flipside to having a dog. Dogs dont come perfect out
of the package, and raising a dog, whether you bring it
home as a puppy or an adult, is much like raising a child.
Below Id like to share five common mistakes new dog owners
Number one, which I most wanted to share
with the neighbor boys, is when you bring home a puppy
you must decide right away how you want it to act when
it grows up. Some behaviors, while darling in puppies,
are not so adorable in grown dogs. Snapping, jumping,
and chewing on your hand are probably not habits you want
to encourage in your puppy. Think twice before you snuggle
up with it in bed. Once a puppy develops a habit, its
going to be 500 times harder to break it. Owners should
not constantly fawn over their new pet, or carry it everywhere
they go. After the newness wears off, you will grow annoyed
if your dog is constantly whimpering for you to play with
him. Believe me, youll appreciate it if your dog has
gotten used to spending some time on her own.
Many more mistakes are made in regards to
training. Training should begin the second that dog becomes
yours. Ideally you will sign up for obedience classes.
That way you have a teacher-expert who will know your
dog personally and can give you the best advice. Whether
you take classes or check out a training book at the library,
you should teach your dog some basic commands, like sit,
stay, come, off, and no. Be careful not to expect too
much of your dog at first. People with unreal expectations
usually give up on training their dogs at all. Then they
complain that their dog is ill-mannered! Most important,
you must be consistent with the training. That goes for
everyone in the household. Make sure that even your five
year old understands that Pickles is not allowed to eat
ice cream under any circumstances. Training sessions work
best if they are short (ten or twenty minutes) and frequent
(every day.) Following through on training sessions, and
being consistent with rules will make your new dog into
the companion you dreamed of when you brought him home.
Third, when your dog misbehavesand she
will, frequently, what should you do? You must never forget
that dogs are not human. They dont have the same memory
we do. Therefore, if you werent there to punish the misbehavior
as it happened, you mustnt punish the dog at all. If
there is a habit you are trying to break, try to anticipate
when it will happen and be ready to intervene. When I
first brought Harry home, he had a jumping problem. He
simply felt obliged to run and jump on every passer-by.
Whenever I had a guest I warned them of Harrys problem
before letting them in the house, and then asked them
to lift their knee when Harry approached. I also gave
a stern, Off! when he jumped. None of my guests encouraged
his behavior, so he eventually got the hint, and stopped.
(Dogs do aim to please. It just takes them time to know
how to please YOU.)
Of course, the worst thing you can do to
punish your dog is to strike him. I cant understate how
big this mistake is. Direct punishment, no matter how
bad the dog behaved, will only backfire on the owner.
Hitting, kicking, or even swatting the dogs nose will
make her fearful of you. When punishing your dog, try
your best to associate the punishment with the bad action.
Never, ever hit your dog!
The last mistake common to dog owners is
probably the funniest to watch. When you bring that new
dog home, start teaching it the Come command right away.
This is not done by chasing it around the neighborhood.
Trust me, your dog thinks this is the best entertainment
since rawhide bones. Chase is a game most dogs love
to play, but I havent yet met an owner who does. If your
dog runs off, fight the urge to pursue. Instead, give
a commandany commandhe might know. Sit works well,
as does Stay. Then reward him. If shes not that far
along in training, bribe her with food or with a toy.
Toss a stick and see if she falls for the cue. Then, reward
with hugs, attention, treats
whatever to make it clear
to your dog that you want him to follow you, not the other
These are the things I wish all dog owners
knew. The good news is that none of these mistakes is
unavoidable, nor are they difficult. Keeping these five
tips in mind, the new dog owner will be on the right road
to a happy ever afterruff ruff!
About the Author
Emma Snow an animal lover works in marketing for Dog Pound
and Horse Stall http://www.horse-stall.net
leading portals for pet management.