Read this before it's too late
Have you ever had a friend you knew was making a wrong decision? Maybe you were even able to predict the outcome. You may have tried to suggest that your friend reconsider, and spent your valuable time explaining why their decision was going to lead to problems.
Welcome to the world of veterinary medicine and healthcare in general.
Almost every day I see people making mistakes with their dogs, and I know that I will not be able to talk to everyone and help them make important changes. Some people also do not know what they don’t know, and for some reason, may be unwilling to change.
But writing is different because one article or blog can make a big difference as it has the potential to reach hundreds or thousands of dog lovers who can help their dogs, and what better place to start than when they are puppies.
This is why today I am going to share the most common mistakes people make when raising a puppy. Enjoy and if you find them helpful, don’t forget to share this information with those you care about.
MISTAKE #1: GETTING THE WRONG DOG
Many people do not think about how much food a dog needs, what type of climate their coat and body can handle, what diseases the breed is predisposed to, how much they bark, how they connect with their people, and if they are predisposed to any undesirable behavioural traits.
Do you ever get the feeling that some people mistake a dog for a purse, or another accessory?
I have seen dog lovers go through a rude awakening when the food bill for their Great Dane is more than their own, or when the cheap kibble that suits their budget causes a multitude of issues, starting with bone deformities, malnutrition, and skin, ear or digestive tract disease.
Another example are Border Collies, active dogs that are not a good match for a couch potato human. Similarly, a Chihuahua wouldn’t make a great avalanche rescue dog.
But I have also seen people adopting short nosed dogs without knowing that many of them can’t breathe well, or being surprised that their Shiba Inu is not the cuddly teddy bear they hoped it would be.
With some exceptions, most dogs (even crosses) come with reliable breed characteristics which makes it easier to match your dog’s traits to your needs and situation.
To prevent disappointments, I suggest making a list of dog traits you are looking for and doing your research before you take the plunge.
You should also consider your climate, the breed’s disease predisposition, and average lifespan to avoid heartbreaks coming way too early.
MISTAKE #2: GETTING A PUPPY FROM THE WRONG PLACE
“I would love to get a Pomsky!” my nephew recently proclaimed. “What is that?” I asked. “Oh, it is a cross between a Husky and a Pomeranian!” “Hmmm, another designer breed,” I thought.
As I am writing these lines, I know that I will almost certainly offend someone, but here is my point. Most dogs are lovely no matter what kind of crosses they are, but crossing two breeds and thinking that it creates a new breed is like saying that combining the Mona Lisa by da Vinci and Sunflowers by van Gogh in a piece of art makes it a painting from da Vingogh. 🤣
When I arrived in Canada in the early 90’s everyone had Sharpei’s. The Wiemaraners followed, and the Labs, the Goldens, the Bernese, Pugs, Frenchies, and then came the Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, and Bernadoodles…
Why are certain dogs “in fashion”? I have no idea, but what I am certain of is that puppy mills and poor breeding thrive on these trends. Buying a dog to rescue them from such situations only perpetuates the existence of these horrible torturous places.
The only way that one should ever adopt a puppy mill dog is after a crackdown by the local authorities.
Puppy mill purchases not only contribute to the suffering of dogs, but also cause physical and emotional issues for many canine generations. Stress is known to affect the expression of DNA and research has shown that it can alter the genetic information passed onto the offspring.
Puppy mill operators often misrepresent themselves as “reputable breeders”, so it is important to go and personally check the puppy’s home if you are adopting a pure bred dog, or adopt from a reputable registered rescue organization that aligns with your beliefs and values.
MISTAKE #3: KNOW-IT-ALL SYNDROME & USING THE WORD 'NO'
Just recently I visited a friend who was fostering two puppies. I saw her boyfriend spanking the puppy because it was chewing on his hand, and I knew I had to be very gentle in suggesting that a better way would be to place a toy or a bone in the puppy’s mouth instead of slapping its bum or face. Despite my best efforts not to offend my friend, he barked back at me:
“I know how to raise dogs! My parents had dogs and we always spanked them and they turned out alright!”
Most of you probably know that dogs are not okay when they are physically scolded. Praising for positive behaviour and PREVENTING or ignoring negative behaviour does wonders.
Also, the whole idea of needing to dominate and act like “the boss” is not exactly correct. Dogs are like people, they enjoy kind, loving, and confident leaders who make them feel safe.
Dogs may submit after being physically punished, but it definitely doesn’t make them feel safe. Often, they act out the aggression they received by displaying aggression towards others.
The one who was bullied is more likely to become a bully.
MISTAKE #4: CHOOSING THE WRONG VETERINARIAN
It is my experience that most of my colleagues love their work and pour their heart and soul into caring for their patients. From what I have heard, it seems that veterinary colleges should consider including courses in effective communication and perhaps psychology to prevent some of the misunderstandings that occur between vets and their clients.
There is, in my opinion, a small portion of veterinarians who are unable to separate their responsibility and duty from the idea of financial gains or losses in their practice.
It requires a degree of personal maturity and integrity to talk a client out of a thousand dollar procedure when there is a $50 solution, and this should be included in the curriculum at veterinary schools.
There are several reasons why some veterinarians are unable to give up making a profit in favour of a simple solution. One is that it is extremely expensive to run a veterinary practice without the sale of drugs, vaccines, surgery, and kibble, hence these are “pushed” on clients.
Another reason is that veterinarians are educated by drug and pet food companies and their representatives, who frequently visit clinics to teach the staff how to sell.
One time, I talked to a business banker who shared with me that veterinarians are one of the most debt burdened professions, which most people would find surprising, and I can confirm this to be true.
When I was in practice, I kept $10 to $20 out of every $100 dollars billed, and after paying taxes I was making less than most government employees, or even cleaners, despite being very busy.
My choice not to sell kibble, and to reduce the use of drugs in my practice by more than 80%, was detrimental to my income. This is the irony of the world we live in. Things are not always as they appear.
I solved my dilemma and burnout by going online and creating a natural supplement line for dogs and people. This allows me to support and train an amazing team of caring people who help me provide free help and support to thousands of dog lovers and their dogs.
This was my solution, but I am also aware that not everyone has the option to do so, and this is one of the reasons why so many vets are emotionally stressed and deeply in debt. It is sad to hear that veterinarians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.
To say all this, before you choose a new vet, read online reviews and talk to local dog lovers. If you see repeated negative reviews about a vet, from what I know locally, the reviews rarely lie.
MISTAKE #5: VACCINATING TOO EARLY AND TOO OFTEN
I have written a few articles on this topic and will do my best to give you a quick point-by-point summary.
- Puppies are usually protected until at least 12 to16 weeks by maternal antibodies from milk.
- Administering vaccines before 12 weeks will often wipe out the maternal antibodies (immunity) because they react and bind with the vaccine (antigen).
- It is safe for you to check antibody levels with a titer test at 12 weeks and then decide if vaccination is needed based on the results. If the antibodies are present, socialize your dog to build natural immunity. If they are absent, vaccinate once and check the levels again in one month with a titre test.
- Based on my experience, boosters at 16 weeks are also unnecessary.
- My dog Pax has never had Distemper and Parvo vaccines and has a fully protective titre against these two diseases.
For more information click here or google “Dr. Dobias Puppy Vaccination.”
MISTAKE #6: FEEDING PROCESSED FOOD
I regularly talk to other dog lovers in dog parks and on beaches and I often hear them say they feed “natural kibble,” but I do not recommend feeding any processed dog food for the following reasons:
While some pet foods are made from better ingredients than others, in general, kibble and other dehydrated foods put stress on your dog’s kidneys because they draw water from the body and may cause a state of dehydration.
Canned food is also processed under very high temperatures which turns it into dead food contaminated with bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals from the can liner lacquer.
The fat in processed food turns rancid as it sits in warehouses and stores for months, and even years, before it’s sold.
Kibble is also a primary cause of obesity because it is about 10x more calorie dense than regular fresh food. This makes puppies overeat, grow too fast, and they frequently end up suffering from bone and joint deformities and obesity later on.
Your doctor would not recommend you eat processed food instead of fresh food, and the only reason why this is still not the case in veterinary nutrition is that veterinary practices make a big chunk of their income from selling so-called “prescription diets” which contain nothing “prescription” in them.
When it comes to pricing, some brands claim that they use real meat and ingredients, however, the price doesn’t add up when we consider the price per pound of real meat.
Dehydrated food is about 10x lower volume which means that one pound of kibble requires about 10 lbs of real meat. Try doing the math yourself, and it will become clear that there is something wrong with this picture. Take the price per pound of processed dog food and compare it to the price of quality meat, and factor in the weight lost from dehydration. The numbers simply do not add up because if kibble was made from real high-quality ingredients, it would be more expensive considering the cost of good quality meat and veggies.
But even if processed pet food was made of the best quality ingredients, no one would want to eat the same or similar dehydrated food every day — so, why would a dog want to?
After spending 30 plus years in veterinary practice, I am certain that feeding your dog a raw or cooked meat and vegetable diet is the best thing for your puppy, if you ensure that your dog also receives the essentials - vitamins, minerals, an Omega-3 supplement, and probiotics.
MISTAKE #7: USING CHEMICAL FLEA CONTROL
I generally do not recommend using chemical flea products due to years of witnessing how toxic and dangerous some of these chemical products are.
Sadly, the Environmental Protection Agency reports show that every drug-based flea product causes serious side effects, including death. I have personally seen a few incidents of epilepsy and tremors in dogs shortly after a conventional flea product had been administered.
Don’t let anyone convince you that chemical flea control is safe, or the only solution for controlling fleas. I have been able to prevent and control fleas for more than 6 years using zero chemical flea control products. Here is a link to FleaHex - my natural flea control product.
MISTAKE #8: USING HEARTWORM & DEWORMING DRUGS UNNECESSARILY
The ultimate objective here is to keep your puppy parasite-free and safe, while also minimizing the use of drugs.
Test your puppy’s fecal sample for parasites as soon as you adopt them, and again in one month and two months. Deworming when you have negative test results for intestinal parasites is unnecessary. Parasite tests are far more reliable now, and it is wise to test before treating.
Administering drugs for preventive reasons is like using a fire extinguisher before a fire happens — It does no good and it can cause damage.
When it comes to heartworm, the situation is a little too complex to give you comprehensive recommendations here, so read this blog about my natural protocol for all the details.
MISTAKE #9: EXERCISING TOO LITTLE OR TOO MUCH & USING THE WRONG RESTRAINT
Some people may be unaware that they exercise their dog too much. They may worry about their puppy being bored or weak. On the other side of the spectrum are folks who don’t exercise their puppy out of a fear of injuries.
As with most things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Ideally, we should try to get as close to the natural lifestyle of dogs (and wolves) as possible. Ample play and socialization in a safe environment with dogs about the same size and age is ideal. If there is a discrepancy in size and age, injuries and fights can be very traumatic for puppies and can be the start of reactivity and fear aggression.
Ball throwing and too much sprinting leads to slips and slides that result in injuries. In nature, they may chase an animal for a few minutes but then they rest before they go at it again. Running at full speed back and forth for 30 minutes is not a natural way for dogs to exercise. Be careful, and don’t fall into the trap of taking chances by trying to please your dog.
Most dogs are fine with a healthy modification of exercise, as long as we do not fall into thinking that dogs should always be doing what they love despite it being harmful.
Ideally, puppies should mainly play, trot, and run, but sprint only very briefly here and there. Walking and hiking are okay, but introduce these activities gradually and use common sense with young puppies. Play and walking are more appropriate activities.
If you use a daycare while you are at work, stay with your dog for a few minutes the first few times to see how he or she interacts, and whether they truly enjoy being there. I remember putting my dog Skai into daycare once when he was a puppy, and I will never forget the look on his face when I came back. It was simply too much for him.
He also ran away from a dog walker twice because the group was too rowdy, and he ended up at the nearest house where he was kindly looked after until we found him.
Don’t expect your youngster to heel on a leash right away. Puppies need to develop and evolve mentally to be able to grasp this challenge. A dog’s natural tendency is to pull, and if you use a collar the probability of them sustaining a neck injury and thyroid gland trauma is pretty high.
To keep your puppy safe, ideally use a front-clip harness and shock-absorbing leash. Even if you think your dog NEVER PULLS on leash, do not use collars (especially choke, prong, or shock) in order to prevent serious health problems.
When it comes to safety, a harness can be compared to a seatbelt. We hope accidents will not happen but if they do, seatbelts and harnesses have the same purpose — they dramatically decrease the chances of injury. Click here for more info.
MISTAKE #10: LACK OF BOUNDARIES AND SOCIALIZATION
I saved this one for last because if you ensure clear and loving boundaries, living with a dog can be the most rewarding life experience. If you don’t, your dog may turn into a little “hellion on wheels."
Obedience is a sensitive topic, but here are a few pointers that make a big difference:
- Socialize your puppy with other dogs as soon as his or her titre test comes back confirming antibodies (immunity) against distemper and parvovirus.
- Don’t take your dog to a busy dog park until he or she is more mature to avoid getting traumatized by rowdy dogs.
- Teach your dog how to stop and stay put. For example, if they are off-leash and there is an unexpected vehicle approaching, or there is a squirrel on the other side of the street. This is another reason why I do not throw a ball, as it encourages their prey drive which increases the chances of them being hit by car when they decide to chase something.
- Never scold your dog if he or she does something wrong but comes to you when called, as doing so may create fear and hesitation next time. Instead, call them back and then release them after providing a reward, as opposed to calling them and ending the fun. With this approach they will be more likely to come to you when called.
- Don’t let your dog beg or give them food when you are eating at the table. As soon as you reward your dog for begging, the habit is very difficult to break and your dog will be unhappy and confused. It can also be disruptive if you have visitors over for dinner. I see strict table manners as an act of kindness and love, not the opposite. Dogs also appreciate having clear boundaries.
- If you call your dog and he or she does not come, use the command 'wait' and then go pick your puppy up. Repeated calls will make your call ineffective, and put your dog in danger. Personally, I am not against using healthy treats to create a connection between the word 'come' and the positive experience of getting a reward.
- Dogs love to be given clear guidance and boundaries. Do what is good and healthy for your dog and ideally do not adhere to strict feeding or dog walking schedules, as this will make them more adaptable.
Real love is gentle, kind, and supportive, yet it comes along with boundaries that will ultimately make your dog safer and happier.
Let’s be our dogs' best friends! ❤️