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Common Mistakes to Avoid If You’re Adopting a Dog for the First Time

Common Mistakes to Avoid If You’re Adopting a Dog for the First Time

Adopting a dog for the first time is, in some ways, like buying house, owning a car, or having a child for the first time. There’s a lot of fun involved - but you can make plenty of mistakes that make things much harder than they need to be. Here are some of the most common mistakes that first-time owners make, and what you can do to avoid them.

You’re adopting the wrong dog for you

Every type and breed of dog deserves a home, but every dog may not be right for your particular home. You shouldn’t feel bad about being picky when it comes to the type of dog you adopt, as picking one that matches your lifestyle will be better for you and the dog in the long run. If you have allergies, getting a long-haired dog or one known to be bad for allergy-sufferers may not be the best idea. If you live in a small apartment with no yard, getting a breed that requires a lot of space to exercise seems like the wrong decision. Some dogs are known to have better temperaments when it comes to interacting with children and other pets. Check out this dog breed selector to help you select which dog is right for you.

You’re skimping on exercise

Dogs need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. This can come from walking or playing. Apart from the obvious - dogs need exercise to stay healthy (just like humans) - making sure your dog gets enough physical activity will help prevent a multitude of behavioral problems like aggressive play/biting, trash raiding, marking, chewing, and barking. If you are a person who spends most of the day at work or goes on long trips often, you need to make arrangements to make sure your dog gets enough exercise. Hiring a dog walker is easier than ever, thanks to apps that allow you to match with dog walkers in your area.

You’re not setting firm boundaries from day one

Freedom may seem like the best thing for your new dog but in reality, freedom is overwhelming for most dogs - rescues and puppies especially. It’s vital that you establish house rules and that you are consistent in their enforcement. Don’t let your dog lie on the couch one day and scold them for it the next. Don’t let your dog eat and drink at all hours of the night. Don’t let your dog have full roam of the house - at least at first. Dogs crave structure. For new dogs, crate training is highly recommended.

You’re only trying to discipline bad behavior

You should absolutely tell your dog “No” when they are doing something bad. You should do all that you can to prevent them from developing bad habits. But by focusing only on disciplining bad behavior, you’re displaying a misunderstanding of how dogs learn and bond with their owners. The way you teach good behavior is to reward good behavior. Always heap praise - whether that be through touching, affection, verbal affirmations, or treats - when your dog exhibits good behavior.

You can’t expect a new dog to simply adapt to your lifestyle. You have to actively train it, and make concessions in your home life and in your schedule. Dogs, like humans, have different personalities. They have likes and they have dislikes. Don’t make the overarching mistake of believing that you can simply adopt a dog and “man’s best friend” will automatically turn into a great companion. You must give your new dog structure, reward good behavior, and meet its basic daily exercise needs.

Photo Credit:

Author: Jessica Brody (

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