10 New Puppy Owner Mistakes You Can Avoid

By: Brianna Gunter

A fluffy puppy sits in the grass with his tongue out next to a seated woman.

Congratulations on your new puppy! While you’re caught up in all the cuddles, playtime, and general excitement of bringing a new puppy into your home, it can be easy to miss some important steps. Fortunately, getting informed is key to avoiding any serious pitfalls when it comes to raising a puppy into a healthy, friendly dog.

The first few months of your relationship with your new pet are the most vital in terms of establishing a healthy routine and making sure your pup’s life starts off on the right paw. Read on for 10 new puppy owner mistakes and how you can avoid them.

1. Not budgeting for puppy expenses

Some new puppy owners were only looking at the initial adoption fees when budgeting for their new four-legged friend. But surprise, surprise, puppies require a lot of care! Veterinary costs for a puppy quickly add up, as do all the basics you’ll need to provide a comfortable, loving home for him. When tallying up your new puppy expenses, it’s also important to consider your pal’s breed and size. Growing puppies eat a lot as it is, and bigger dogs will need more food to grow healthy and strong.

Having difficulty figuring out how much you’ll need to afford your pup? This dog ownership calculator can help.

2. Delaying puppy training (or not taking it seriously enough)

A black lab puppy looks up for dog training while on leash.

Most dogs reach emotional and physical maturity between one and two years of age, but it’s important to know that they can have hardened habits formed by then. From teaching your new puppy crucial commands like sit and stay to getting him to only go to the bathroom outside, puppy training is most effective when it starts early in life and stays consistent. Whether you’re enrolling Fido in a group class or following dog training tips at home, making training an important part of his everyday schedule will lead to a well-behaved, happy pup down the line.

3. Missing vaccines and vet visits

Trips to the veterinarian aren’t just for when your dog is sick. Regular veterinary visits play an important role in your puppy’s development and lifetime health. Depending on where you adopted your pup from, she may have already had some vaccines and initial veterinary care. Either way, she’ll need multiple vaccines during her first 16 weeks, not to mention a six-month checkup to make sure she’s growing as she should.

4. Overlooking puppy dental health

Many pet owners do not realize just how integral puppy dental health is to overall health and wellbeing. So while you’re at one of your puppy’s first vet visits, be sure to ask about his teeth and gums. Puppy teething starts when they are about two weeks old and will continue until they are between eight and 10 weeks old. Investing in safe puppy chew toys and learning to brush his teeth regularly will help keep your puppy’s mouth healthy, as well yearly dental exams by a qualified veterinarian.

5. Skipping flea, tick, and heartworm prevention

Depending on where you live, fleas, ticks, and heartworms can pose a real risk to your pup’s health. All three can carry harmful diseases that can be fatal to dogs, but they are also preventable. Talk with your pet’s veterinarian about the best age for him to start with monthly flea and tick prevention (usually in the form of topical medication) and heartworm medication.

6. Not researching puppy food

With so many different dog foods out there, it can be tough to know what to feed your new puppy. Before just picking the first brand off the store shelf, it’s important to talk with your dog’s veterinarian about their specific dietary needs.

If you have an adult dog at home, be wary of feeding the same food to your new puppy. Puppies have high protein and fat needs compared to adult dogs, so they’ll thrive better on a diet designed just for them.

7. Feeding too much (or too little!)

While you’re choosing the best puppy food for your pet, it’s important to not fall into another new puppy owner mistake—feeding your pet too much food or not enough. Portion sizes vary greatly by breed, so talk to your puppy’s veterinarian and pay attention to quantity recommendations on food packaging.

Pay attention to your puppy’s body fat and eating habits as they grow. Active puppies that are getting the food intake they need will be neither overweight nor underweight. If your pup starts eating less, it could be a sign to stop serving her as much.

8. Not socializing puppy

Even if your new puppy will not be living alongside other pets, it’s crucial to make sure he’s socialized at a young age. Doing so will help ensure he can go to dog parks, doggy daycare, and busy social spaces without becoming aggressive or acting out. The American Kennel Club advises all dog owners to socialize pets within their first three months of life in order to set them on the right track for life.

9. Underestimating puppy’s attention needs

Active, growing puppies need a lot of attention and care, and not just when it comes to food and veterinary appointments. Some people underestimate how much playtime and walks their new puppy needs, not to mention cuddle sessions and training time. In order to grow into well-behaved, happy and socialized dogs, puppies shouldn’t be left alone all day.

If you work outside of home, consider taking some days off when you first bring your puppy home. Going forward, doggy daycare or a regular dog walker can be a good option for getting your growing pup the socialization and stimulation they need daily.

10. Not investing in puppy protection

Sure, young Fido is energetic and healthy, and he may not seem like he’s at much risk of harm at this time. But the future is unpredictable. And just like us, dogs age and become increasingly prone to health problems over time. There are a few different things you can do now to protect your new puppy long into the future. Some pet owners make the mistake of waiting for something bad to happen, when the truth is that the first few months of your puppy’s life are the best time to take advantage of extra protections. There are two actions in particular that you can take to help ensure the safety of your pet.

1. Get your puppy microchipped

The good news is that microchipping your pet is required as part of the adoption process, with many shelters including it with initial vaccines and other care. But if your new puppy has not yet been microchipped, there’s no time like the present.

Pet microchips are about the size of a grain of rice, and they are injected just below your puppy’s skin. Once in place, the chip can be scanned by any veterinary office or shelter for your pet’s name and ownership information. Microchips are like an ID tag that can’t be broken or taken off, making them more effective than old-fashioned collars and metal tags.

In other words, if your new BFF ever goes missing, a microchip can help you two get reunited.

2. Enroll in puppy health insurance

Maybe you’ve already planned and budgeted for routine dog veterinary care, but what if it goes beyond that in the future? Accidents happen, and there are also no guarantees your pal won’t get sick. Depending on the situation, a good puppy insurance plan can be the key to unlocking many more healthy years with your furry companion.