Getting a new lab puppy can be both exciting and scary. You want to give your pup a lot of love and enjoy the wonders of her cuteness, but you don’t want to mess up the dog’s development, which will impact the rest of the dog’s life.
Unfortunately many dog owners want the puppy without the responsibility, and learn how big a commitment having a dog really is much too late.
The new pet owner may then slack on proper training tactics, and the puppy subsequently struggles to learn boundaries or how to socialize properly. This is how adult labs can end up rowdy and badly behaved for most of their lives.
It’s important to start thinking about your puppy’s behavior and development right away. Here are common mistakes many new lab puppy owners make, which will help point you in the right direction when committing to a long but fruitful relationship with your dog.
Neglecting training and house rules
Consistent training has to begin as soon as you bring your new puppy home. It’s wrong to assume that because your dog is so young, that training won’t matter or won’t stick.
Training your dog as a puppy is crucial for your lab to grow into a fully trained, well-behaved dog. Just as young children pick up key behaviors for their future adult lives, puppies learn the best and most effectively while young.
Many new dog owners do not start training and establishing rules until the dog is older and larger. Labs do well with clear behavioral boundaries, so showing the dog what’s acceptable and what’s not when the dog is still young and moldable is crucial.
A new lab puppy is constantly curious and energetic, and she wants to eat anything and everything.
New dog owners tend to give their puppy a lot of treats and want to find which food is the most appealing to the puppy.
Spoiling the puppy while young can be very difficult to overcome later.
While training with treats is a great way for your dog to learn about positive behaviors and rewards, make sure that you’re not getting your pup hooked on unhealthy treats that you’ll have to wean her off later. Get your lab puppy used to eating both the right amount of food and the healthiest food, and not just treat after treat.
Need food ideas? Check out Best Dog Foods for Labradors
While it’s important not to respond to every whine and whimper your puppy conveys when trying to cope with being without you, keep in mind that this is also the most crucial time for your dog to develop social skills.
If your new lab puppy is the only dog or pet at home, consider going for walks to a local dog park or dog area where your puppy can meet other dogs. This will help your pup’s socialization skills right away, which is a very important part of a lab’s personality.
Don’t make the mistake of keeping your dog home all day and night, not interacting with other people and dogs. This will likely turn your puppy into a dog who is anxious and shy and sometimes even aggressive.
Mixing up verbal cues
It’s important not to use the puppy’s name when scolding.
This would mean that when you call the dog’s name later in a positive or rewarding moment, the dog will think he or she is being punished.
When training, make sure you set up whatever terms work best for your dog, whether it be “no” or “outside” or “down” or any other triggering term you can stick to.
Also be careful not to use scolding words that sound similar to the dog’s name, since that could be very confusing when teaching what is good versus bad behavior.
Forgetting rules in new situations
Do not become lax on rules when new people are meeting your puppy or when you’re taking your puppy to a new place.
If you don’t allow your puppy on the couch normally, or if you scold the pup when jumping on people, stay consistent, always, in every situation.
If you don’t let your dog playfully bite your hands or feet during play time, don’t allow other people to do this, even if they just think it’s cute.
One slip up from your training practices could mean reteaching your puppy the same rules that she has taken weeks to get down.
Letting the dog lead you on walks
From the very beginning, always ALWAYS make it clear who’s in charge. Do not give in when your dog wants something that is out of your training plan or rulebook that you’ve been establishing in training exercises.
When on walks, make sure your dog is paying attention when you are using verbal or physical cues.
For example, don’t allow her to walk forward until she’s still and sitting and you are sure she’s understood that she has to wait for your signal to go ahead. Be firm without pulling on the leash too much or yanking her whole body away from something she shouldn’t be eating or sniffing.
Never let her lead you on walks; if you start that bad habit young, it will be very hard to change that behavior later.
Failing to utilize positive reinforcement
The good news is that positive reinforcement is a great technique for training a happy dog.
Offer your dog a better solution to a bad behavior, instead of always scolding or punishing. This won’t work for everything, because young dogs do need to feel that they’ve made a mistake to really try to avoid a bad behavior in the future, but there are still ways to keep training sessions positive, like offering the puppy one of her chew toys when she seems interested in gnawing on your shoe.
As you can see, here are many mistakes that new lab puppy owners make, but understanding the most common missteps will help you recognize how important it is to start training your lab puppy as soon as you bring her home.
- Establish rules and boundaries right away, and do not neglect training tactics just because she’s so young.
- Be sure to start feeding healthy food and a measured amount to set up healthy habits for the future.
- Introduce your puppy to other people and dogs to start building positive social experiences.
- When scolding, don’t use the dog’s name, which will confuse her later when you’re rewarding her or calling for her.
- Stay consistent in her training, even when new people come over or you bring her to new places.
- Never let your dog lead you on walks, and always make sure she knows that you are in charge.
- And keep in mind that you can implement positive reinforcement; training doesn’t always have to mean scolding and negativity.
Knowing how to avoid these common errors will help you address your dog’s training and development head on.
Redirecting these seven mistakes will allow your lab puppy to develop into a well-balanced dog who exhibits good behavior, is well trained, and interacts with people and dogs in positive ways. Only then will your relationship with your animal will be healthy and consistent.