16 more mistakes dog lovers make with their puppies
Puppies, puppies, everywhere I look I see puppies!
In principle, I am thrilled that more people are providing loving homes for dogs, but I am also worried. Many people get their first dog and are bound to make serious mistakes that will inevitably lead to health and behavioural problems.
This is why I have decided to continue the puppy theme, with the hope that together we can make a difference. By “we” I mean you and I, because I hope that you will share this with your friends, who will share with their friends, and their friends of friends.
That is how change happens.
And if you presently do not have a puppy, thank you for your patience 🤓 because so many problems can be completely prevented with a few important bits of knowledge. 🎉 There are some tidbits on dog toys, leashes and peanut butter that you should know for your adult dogs, too.
If you have just joined our community recently, or missed the past few newsletters, make sure that you also check out parts 1 and 2 of the puppy series:
Following the tips in PARTS 1 and 2 will help you raise well socialized, nourished, and strong pups who will also be protected against infectious disease without excessive vaccination.
For PART 3, I have scanned my mental “filing cabinet” for everything regarding activity, puppy training, behaviour, and rewards that can cause problems - despite the best intentions. Let’s dive right in!
Why you shouldn’t teach a young puppy to jump up to your face.
I am starting with this one because it hits close to home. Training our puppies to lick our faces is great, at first. Who doesn’t like puppy breath!? Unfortunately, by letting them lick, puppies, including my sweet Pax, fixate on connecting with people by licking our faces, and when they grow up they start jumping up to say “Hi!”
Add a few humans squealing “Oh my gawd!!! He is soooo cuuuute!!!” and that will encourage your puppy to jump up even more. Face licking is cute in the beginning, but can become a real nuisance and safety hazard if a dog does this with little kids, or frail seniors.
Ideally, try to train your puppy to greet people by sitting before others approach them. This is not an easy one to do when so many people say: “Oh, I don’t mind if he jumps up, it’s fine!”
Unfortunately, it is fine only until someone gets very upset.
Bailey, Bailey, Bailey! Bailey Come, Bailey come here, Baileeey, Baileyyyy! If this doesn’t sound familiar to you, you’re a lucky person. Many dogs seem to ignore recalls, and it is not their fault.
The problem is not their dog, but the technique of teaching their dog to come. It seems like some people forget that dogs don’t come pre-programmed, and we have to teach them these things.
The most common mistakes people make are:
- They try to progress too fast, and in places that are too distracting for their dog.
- Repeatedly calling their dog’s name when they aren't responding.
- Taking a harmful shortcut by using a shock collar - the object I hate most in the entire universe.
Shocking dogs into submission undoubtedly leads to emotional trauma, and physical damage of the thyroid gland, cervical nerves, and other surrounding tissue. If anyone thinks otherwise, let’s book a human shock collar session.
The best option we have when teaching a dog to come is keeping our pups on leash if they are challenging, and training a perfect recall for the rest.
Here are a few points to guide you:
- Train your dog to come in a safe non-distracting environment.
- Do not repeat commands if your dog is not listening.
- Use treats for positive reinforcement rewards.
- Increase the distance as you progress.
- Change the environment and your body position - standing, sitting, lying down.
- Use a happy uplifting voice.
- Recall many times during a walk, and then let them continue on so that being recalled isn’t associated with the end of fun.
Here is a nice video, posted with the kind permission of Sally Marchant at Naturally Happy Dogs.
Retract the retractable leash.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I think about the damage caused by retractable leashes every time I am out on a dog walk. They are rampant, and they are nasty, however, I want you to be kind to yourself if you use one currently, because you most likely do not know how harmful they are or you wouldn’t use them.
Retractable leashes generate a lot of pressure on the throat, neck, and thyroid gland, which is located right under the collar area. The constant pull on the leash is one issue, and the other is the jerk it produces when a dog reaches the end of the line - or the “brake” button is pressed.
The other day, I met a beautiful doggy and her owners in the park. She was adopted after she was found running on the interstate highway, causing a multi-car accident as people tried to avoid hitting her. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt.
When I met her she was still rather nervous, and her new mom was constantly pushing on the brake button every time she walked forward.
The jolts were like receiving neck adjustments from someone who hasn’t gone to chiropractic school.🥴 It only takes one jerk to cause a lot of damage.
The cervical nerves supply autonomous (parasympathetic) nerve fibres that govern the internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, digestive organs, and the kidneys. Most people are not even aware of the common connection between neck injuries and disease.
This is why I never put a collar attached to a leash on my dog, and only use the
Perfect Fit Harness and Gentle Leash on Pax. It took me years to find them, and once I did I stopped using everything else. Here is a picture of Pax proudly wearing one. Would you believe that he has never had a leash attached to a collar in his life?
But my dog hates their feet being touched!
I would not be surprised if you think that dog nail trims are much easier than spaying or neutering a dog. Technically, this may be correct, but in real life I would take a spay or neuter over a nail trim any day!
The reason is that most dogs are not trained to have their feet touched, and it all starts in puppyhood.
Handle your puppy’s feet as early as possible, while also giving treats at the same time. Do this daily: squeeze their toes and make them get familiar with the nail clippers.
Don’t let your puppy become a drama queen.
For most vets, handling misbehaving animals can be equally as challenging as treating a disease. Once again, it comes down to early handling and not letting them wiggle away when being held.
Most people let their dog go with the slightest sign of disagreement, and the result is a whirling dervish that no one can handle. To say this, a naughty dog is still 10x better than a fractious or freaked out kitty.😱
I have used a rather unusual, but very effective, technique for restraining puppies and older dogs. If they try to wiggle, I don’t let go, but go with my hand in the direction of their movement for a second, and then gently circling them back to the original position.
For example, if you are trimming nails and your dog tries to sneak out of the hold, hold the foot, go back with your dog’s movement and then bring it back. Hold the foot gently, but do not let go.
It is simple, it works, and it can be applied to any body part. Move with your dog, and then come back to where you want it to be. It is subtle, gentle, yet clear.
You can make several circles until your dog settles, and give them a treat when they do.
A beauty, or a tangled mess.
“My dog doesn’t like being combed”, many people complain. The reality is, most dogs do not know they like combing because they are not used to it. Handle your puppy as soon as you get them, take a comb, let them sniff it, give treats, touch the skin and be patient. You can even try offering a raw bone when combing, or doing something special.
If your dog objects, be gentle but do not stop! Just give them a quick break, and perhaps step back a bit with the intensity of touch. Soon enough, your dog will love it. 🐶❤️
You can also use a rubber brush similar to those used on horses. There is one called Zoom Groom that works quite well.
Plastic, oh no!
Most dogs love toys and my dog Pax is no exception. Unfortunately, almost all toys on the market are made of plastic that pollutes this planet and is toxic for our dogs.
My suggestion is that you find toys made of natural materials, or at least food safe silicone, and let your puppy play with toys only under supervision. It is good not to let toys lay around, and instead use them as a reward or distraction for your puppy when you are busy. What is rare is also precious.
Just remember that the toxicity of materials and fillers used for making toys is often unknown, and PCBs, xenoestrogens (estrogen like carcinogens), lead, and arsenic are common but not the only toxins found in toys.
When it comes to dog toys there are almost no manufacturing regulations, and because most toys are made in China, it isn’t a question of whether or not plastic dog toys are toxic, but which toy is more poisonous.
Ideally, stay away from plastic no matter how much your dog loves it. That includes rubber toys with the exception of silicone and natural rubber.
One thing that can wear your puppy’s teeth down to nothing.
It is round, yellow, dogs love it, and it is very dangerous for their teeth.
What is it ?
Most dog lovers are not aware that tennis ball fibers are very abrasive, and I have seen many ball obsessed dogs wear their teeth down to nothing over the span of a few years.
If your dog likes to fetch, use a silicone or food safe rubber ball, and be careful, as back injuries are common.
Wild dogs would never chase 100 rabbits in the span of one hour!
Our dogs are not built for that amount of sprinting and the constant breaking, jarring, slipping and sliding actions can make middle aged dogs age and become immobile much faster.
Play hide and seek, go jogging and walking, and do some obedience training. For more details on ways to keep your dog naturally flexible and fit, click here.
One more thing: Definitely don’t do this no matter how fun it looks. Dogs get hurt and burnt out by trying to keep up behind a bike, and even if they are running ahead, it is just too much for any dog.
I caution you, you may be swearing as much as I did when I saw these unaware dog people in this video. I cringed to see the poor dog slamming into the ground.
Flying saucer pup?
Frisbee! I love them for people, but I am rather "anti-frisbee" for dogs because of the injuries I have seen after prolonged use. Jumping up high, twisting, and landing are not things your dog will miss for a long time when you stop. I know it is hard to stop if your puppy is used to a frisbee game, especially if you have a sporting breed.
It may be fine to do once in a while, but sorry to break the news, this kind of exercise leads to premature immobility and aging the same way that high performance sports lead to injuries and chronic issues in humans. Mobility is one of the top issues in dogs who are put down, and unreasonable exercise is one of the causes. To say this, that doesn't mean that dogs that spend the day sleeping on the couch are any healthier.
Read about other mistakes people make when exercising their dogs here.
Bike, skateboard, and car chasing blues.
Sadly, not all dogs know the difference between a rabbit and a bike, or a skateboard and a car, and a chasing habit like that can wind up causing an injury, or worse. Some people are surprised when I mention that fetching increases their dog’s prey drive. Ball throwing reinforces natural prey drive and increases the chances of dogs chasing moving objects.
If your dog is a chaser, you will have to teach them to sit when a bike is coming by, and reward them repeatedly if they behave. It takes time.
Also try to occupy their mind differently, you can look up how to teach them fun tricks on YouTube and help keep your dog away from chasing.
“I can’t tire my dog out.” some people say. “After two hours of fetching and playing, he is still hyper” they remark.
Here is a trick: put an over-tired puppy on leash and they they will fall asleep in a nanosecond!
The real reason why puppies are still busy and hyperactive after a lot of exercise is that they are wound up, despite being physically tired, and just need to learn how to rest.
There are a few ways to calm down and ground a puppy:
- A rest in a crate, which is especially useful in young puppies.
- Long down exercise (step on a leash attached to your dog’s harness, leave about 3 feet of length and “ignore your pup” until they settle and stay like this for 5-20 minutes. Increase the length of the leash gradually).
- Give your puppy a bone to chew on. Bones must always be raw, click here for more details on which ones are safe.
Puppy burn out
If you have seen overtired children, you know that all hell can break loose in no time at all if kids don’t have a rest, and the same applies to puppies. Three to four outings per day should be plenty with good naps in between.
Crate train your puppy early on, and use the crate as a safe haven away from the busy world.
Ten hour home prison?
I know some people will not be pleased with this one, but I must mention this serious problem.
Many puppies are destined to spend most of their waking time alone, while their people work. Destructive behaviour, separation anxiety, fear, and aggression are common when puppies are left alone for an extended period of time.
“But, but, I have to go to work!” many people object, and while I understand, that doesn’t mean we can leave puppies alone for extended periods of time. Some may handle it alright, because they have no other option, but others will get into trouble.
Prolonged stress will also affect their physical and emotional health.
Here are some options for you:
- Find a job where you can take your dog with you.
- Find a reliable trustworthy friend, or a senior, who could keep your puppy company when you are working.
- Hire a dog walker that will take your puppy out for a couple of hours. Personally, I would make sure that the dog group is limited to 4 well behaved dogs, and I would advise going along for the first few dog walks to ensure that your puppy is happy and safe. BTW, my dog Skai ran away from a dog walker twice. Each time, he found the first house near the trail and sat by the door until they came back.
NOTE: If you choose to use a doggy day care, be very cautious that it is not one of those wild lawless places where your puppy may get bullied and traumatized for life.
Also, make sure that you spend the first few visits with your dog before you commit and leave your puppy behind. Some puppies love it, others hate it, and I wouldn’t push your puppy too much.
Freedom of expression.
There are some people who still believe that dogs can spend their entire life on leash. When I hear that, I have the urge to suggest that perhaps they should think of letting themselves off the proverbial leash, too.
As a freedom loving guy, I can’t imagine how a puppy that has not been off-leash feels. There are some exceptions of traumatized and aggressive dogs, but most puppies need off-leash time no matter what.
Practicing a good recall is the key to allowing puppies off-leash in a safe park-like setting. Some people leave a long line on pups when playing, but I think it is a safety hazard the same as retractable leashes are. Just yesterday, Pax almost ran full force into the leash line of another dog, and if he didn’t see it at the last second, he would have been hurt.
Peanut butter story.
Sticky, gooey and delicious! Most people think peanut butter is good for dogs, but they don't know it is abundant in aflatoxins, produced by the aspergilus fungi. To the surprise of many, aflatoxins in peanuts are carcinogenic. Children and growing puppies are especially affected by these toxins that can cause an array of problems such as stunted growth, liver disease, and behavioural issues.
Peanut butter is the most popular filler of chew toys. Unfortunately, due to aflatoxins and the fact that peanuts are grown in the ground, your dog should not eat peanut butter as it is the least healthy of all nut butters.
Aflatoxins are one of the most carcinogenic substances in nature.
If you do like to use nut butter as a toy filler opt for pumpkin seed butter, which is safe, and pumpkin seeds are also known to have anti-parasitic properties.
Toxic Flea and Tick products for puppies?
Not in my world!😡
During the past few decades, I have been observing with horror how many toxic chemicals puppies are exposed to from an early age. Conventional flea and tick products, as well as deworming and heartworm meds, are given to most dogs starting at an early age.
Pretty much all these products have caused fatalities in dogs, you can see details on the EPA’s website here.
Recently, there has also been a study published on fipronil usage in dogs and cats, which has confirmed that it affects neurotransmitters in a dog’s brain, and can also cause behavioural and cognitive impairment.
Fipronil is also an environmental hazard, as it kills bees.
The creation of effective and safe natural Flea and Tick products was a big hurdle for my team and I, but we did it!
I currently use TickHex on Pax while spending time with my family in central Europe, which is a hotbed of ticks and Lyme disease.
What you can expect with this product is that most ticks will not even attach, and those that do will not suck and die. Removing ticks is relatively easy when you use a tick remover tool. Do not twist, but gently persist with an upward pull.
1. If the head stays in the skin, I try to “scrape it out” with my nail, and if it is firmly attached, wait a day to remove it. Read this guide for more information on how to remove a tick.
2. Apply Herbal Skin Spray at every spot of attachment to speed up recovery and prevent skin infection and inflammation.
There is so much more I could say about raising puppies, puppy training and behaviour, and I am realizing that my writing could go on for a few more hours, but I will stop here.
Have a wonderful day, and give your dog a hug for me! And if you click the share button, you will make my day! Although, that is not as important as the fact that you will help more puppies have fantastic, happy, and healthy lives.
I thank you for that! ❤️
Continue reading the puppy series:
Or, listen to the whole puppy series via my podcast here:
Items referenced in this article.
Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM has 30 years of experience as a veterinarian. He graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1988 in the Czech Republic and obtained the Canadian Certificate of Qualification in 1995. He is currently licensed in the European Union, and his unique approach to healing and nutrition helps holistically minded dog lovers worldwide.
Dr. Dobias strongly believes that disease prevention, natural nutrition and supplements, the right exercise and a drug free approach to medicine can add years to your dog's life.
As a formulator of his all-natural vitamin and supplement line and co-inventor of natural, chemical free flea and tick control, FleaHex® and TickHex®, his unique healing system and products currently hold the highest independent five star customer rating. For more information click here.
Any general recommendations that Dr. Dobias makes are not a substitute for the appropriate veterinary care and are for informational and educational purposes only.