I’m Afraid I’m Doing Everything Wrong With My Puppy

We live in a fear society.

I have to say, sometimes I’m afraid I’m doing everything wrong with my puppy, and I’m an experienced dog person! I make a living writing about dogs and dog training.

No matter what I write about, someone has to inform me I’m waaaay wrong. I’m killing my puppy, even.

No wonder I get worried emails from new puppy owners saying things like, “I let my puppy on the couch. Have I ruined her?”

No! Let your puppy on the couch for God’s sake! As long as you don’t mind having your future adult dog on the couch.

Since I got my puppy Remy, here are actual warnings I’ve heard or read:

  • Don’t take your puppy for walks. You’ll destroy his joints. (Have you lived with a weimaraner?)
  • Never tell a puppy “No;” that’s aversive and you’ll scare him. (HA!)
  • Don’t let your puppy play on hard floors; he’ll get hip dysplasia.
  • Don’t let your puppy climb stairs; he’ll damage his hips.
  • Don’t give your puppy rawhides. He can’t digest them.
  • Don’t let your puppy go potty outside until he’s had all his vaccinations; he could get sick and die.
  • Don’t put flea prevention on your puppy. It’ll give him cancer.
  • Don’t give your puppy raw food. His immune system isn’t developed and it WILL kill him. (Said a vet of ours!)

OK … so … what can my puppy do? Sit in a pen with pee pads licking himself?

It’s stressful raising a puppy, and these extreme warnings are not helpful, especially for new dog owners.

Here’s my advice:

Don’t believe a word anyone says.

People have been raising dogs for generations. It’s not complicated. If you make mistakes (we all do), you can fix them. Dogs adapt.

Puppies get sick. They get hurt. They misbehave. We all reinforce the wrong things at times.

It’s fine.

The truth behind these warnings

For every one of those “warnings,” there are some truths to them. But they are not hard RULES, just things to consider, research and weigh the pros and the cons.

For example, I chose to take my 11-week-old puppy for 40-minute walks around the neighborhood. I don’t think I could live with this puppy if I couldn’t walk him. He and I would drive each other crazy.

I'm afraid I'm doing everything wrong with my puppy

I tried not to overdo it for his joints, but who knows? I also hoped he wouldn’t get sick (he didn’t).

On the plus side, my puppy was out and about meeting new people and seeing new places. He was exposed to many things, built a stronger immune system, built stronger muscles and burned energy so was better behaved.

I don’t have all the answers. I can only do what I think is best for my puppy. That means he gets rawhides, I tell him NO plenty, I let him use the stairs, I use flea prevention.

These are all decisions I have to make for my own puppy. Your puppy is different.

We do the best we can!

What puppy or dog challenges are you dealing with right now?

There’s always something, isn’t there?

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36 thoughts on “I’m Afraid I’m Doing Everything Wrong With My Puppy”

  1. Oh my. We did everything on the What Not To Do list.
    It was a little scary, but I decided to ignore the internet rule of walking 5 minutes per puppy’s age in months. He was about 3 months old when we got him and no way I would only walk him for 15 minutes.
    We have hard floors throughout the whole house, as well as stairs outside. Puppy had to deal with these traps every day.
    No, Out, Leave It were the most used words in the beginning, ha ha.
    Homemade raw food from the beginning, plus an occasional rawhide. (We don’t do rawhides any more though.)
    He got flea drops at the shelter, so I didn’t have anything to say about that.

    So far he’s still alive and walking.

    I think people just want to be helpful, but you have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself and decide what’s best for your family. Getting my (large breed mix) puppy socialized was more important than the fear of him getting sick, for example.

    Good luck with Remy! Have you tried playing nose work games with him? Our dog is a pest in the evenings, but after 3 – 4 rounds of looking for food, he calms down.

        1. Kuba gets a little wind up in the evenings, bouncing off the walls. (Sounds familiar?) A game of Find It requires self-control while he’s waiting in Down-Stay for you to hide food or treats (it’s so tempting to get up!), and then his focus during the search. He calms down after 30 minutes.
          I highly recommend this game for your little food motivated hound. 🙂

  2. No hard wood floors?! That’s a new one! My housemates did give me an earful for picking a puppy the exact same color as our wood floors, though. Poor thing gets tripped over constantly. My pup just hit 16 weeks today and he managed to survive even though I definitely wasn’t as strict about keeping him away from, well, everything as my vet recommended. I think I’d lose my mind if I hadn’t been walking mine, either, and he’s not a high-energy dog bred to run like yours. I do sometimes worry I’m “ruining” him by not socializing him enough. I do try so hard to walk him by people as often as I can, but we don’t live near any convenient outdoor malls and my husband and I are the kind of anti-social hermits who make all our friends over Vent in World of Warcraft. We can’t exactly bring him over to meet our buddy and his vaccinated dog, since our buddy happens to live in Britain.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Haha! I worry about never having people over. I worry, is Remy going to freak out when we finally do have visitors? I don’t mind excitement, but will he be aggressive? On the plus side, we see tons of people outside and he’s friendly to them.

  3. Oh my, you just confirmed all of my feelings and anxiety of what i might or might not have done correctly to raise my dog, Sam Pete. I have definitely made mistakes that I am trying to correct. I am reading the Fiesty Dog right now. We are the dreaded team to pass as I am walking my dog as we pass ‘polite’ neighbor dogs. I know they probably try to avoid us and some times I turn around and just walk the other way. Yikes!! We love them so much and want to do the right thing for them. Hang in there. I believe you should just follow your own instincts.

  4. Sandy Weinstein

    cant believe some of these things. however, i dont give rawhide to my dogs. they really dont digest it very well. look at their poop. they can also choke on it. the other things i have never heard of. i know that i did not take my girls to events til they had all of their vaccinations and was very careful abt who touched them, etc. i use doggy wipes b4 we got in the car to come home. but i dont that now with my older girls. i learned this from my dog breeder at the dog shows, helps prevent you carrying anything back to your rv or home.

  5. This is so true about our culture! I had someone close to me get very stressed out because the puppy just looked like “a bundle of rules” and they were afraid to make a mistake. I say we are living in a world of helicopter parenting where everyone wants to control every moment for their pup. Guess what? We can’t control everything, and we will make mistakes.

    I think as an experienced dog person, there is extra pressure during the first 16 weeks. You know that it is a critical learning period – so every good experience and socialization effort is so helpful in helping Remy grow up well-adjusted, but every bad experience can be magnified. While people who have brought up multiple puppies often forget those first few months later on, I still think it is that much harder the first time you go through the puppy paces the first time around. Sort of like how new parents are so careful and wash everything off and the second kid gets to eat dirt and no one cares, because you’ve internalized that it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m glad you are resisting this pressure!

  6. I have learned that I’m an expert with my dogs. Although I understand that the advice is well meaning, I’ve had to become firm with people and let people know that I don’t accept unsolicited advice. In my experience, it tends to come from good hearted people and it’s tinged with passion and a little hysteria that I don’t need. LOL

    Have fun with your puppies.

    I don’t agree with things that other dog owners choose for their dogs and I don’t agree with several things that you’re a proponent of, but that’s what makes the world interesting – if we all agreed, how would we learn and grow.

  7. I was told by our vet when Lambeau was a puppy (8 weeks old when we adopted him. He’s two now) to NEVER play tug with him because it will make him aggressive. But he loves a good game of tug. Talked with my trainer who taught us to play with rules- he takes the toy only when I tell him to, and drops it when I tell him to. He still loves a good game of tug, and he isn’t in the least aggressive.
    No matter how experienced anyone may be with dogs, each one is different, just like kids. And, just like kids, sometimes we make mistakes. But as you said, mistakes can be corrected. I think as long as you are a good puppy parent, teach him well, and don’t do anything outright dangerous, he (and you) will be fine!
    And, he is absolutely adorable!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh the tug one! I forgot to even mention that! I normally play tug with fogs but we aren’t with Remy at least for a few months because he gets too excited and we also might train him for hunting. So … Like you said, they’re all different.

  8. I listen to everyone and like to weigh everyone’s opinion. Of course if you’re raising puppies for a school you have to follow by their rules. Speaking of the school their opinion will often change on some of these controversial topics. For instance, when I raised my first puppy I was encouraged to get him out and socialized very early on. However, when I got Dublin one of his siblings caught Parvo and died within the first couple weeks of being home. After that the school was very cautious and asked us to restrict our pup’s outings until they finished their vaccination series.

      1. Yeah, it was one of Dublin’s siblings and he was in our puppy kindergarten class. The school called me when I was at work and asked me to drive out to the school to have Dublin tested for Parvo. Luckily it was an isolated incident.

  9. I LOVE this post. I am absolutely the one that emailed you asking if I’m ruining my dog by letting her on the couch! The internet just has way too many things to say and I became really reliant on it when we got her.

    I was definitely too worried about taking her on walks outside before her last round of shots. And then both of my siblings who have dogs who have never been sick say, oh she’ll be fine just take her out! And then I feel bad that we pad-trained her and now have to start over with the house breaking… the list goes on and on. But she gets her last shots in 2 days and I can’t wait to take her to the park! Mostly because going outside just drains all the energy from her little puppy body. She was in the in-laws’ yard today for a few hours and has been sleeping at home ever since! What a tangent, sorry…

    And good thing I never heard most of those other Don’t’s, because we have hard wood floors and we love running up and down the stairs for some extra exercise in the house!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Haha! I’m sure your puppy will be just fine. None of them are perfect just like none of the owners are either. That will be so much fun to take her to the park in a few days! She will love it, I’m sure. Or if she’s overwhelmed, she’ll probably love it the 2nd time.

  10. I feel like im doing everything wrong and then some! My biggest problemis the right kind of discipline! Ive had soooooo many people give me so many dofferent ideas and most of them contradict each other.. I truly am at a loss for how to handle my puppy when she acts out or tests my limits. 🙁

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I read in a book over the weekend that there are no bad puppies! That was a good reminder to me. So they don’t really act out as they are just testing things and learning what they can and can’t get away with. I usually tell my pup “no” once or maybe twice and then if he’s still driving me nuts and directing him to a toy doesn’t work I just put him in his kennel for 5 minutes to calm down. I like to use a leash to keep them calmer and near me, but my puppy turns into a little psycho and tugs on the leash so that option is out for now.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          I was thinking that too. Like a chain leash? I would just use it indoors for this purpose.

  11. HA! If I hadn’t taken Missy & Buzz for daily walks around the apartment complex we used to live at when they were young puppies, they would have destroyed our apartment! Guess what – they turned out just fine & had a blast socializing with a variety of things & people. There are so many different opinions and suggestions regarding puppy raising out there, that you would turn into a crazy person trying to follow every single one of them. Just figure things out as you go.

  12. We are currently on our third puppy and you get less worried as time goes on. We have done most of those things minus the rawhide (choking reasons) and all of our dogs turned out just fine. All of our dogs are rescues and come from many different backgrounds but they are all the most loving and well behaved dogs. It does help to know your dog’s personality when training though. I have heard people tell me I should take my puppy to the sit means sit training but from her background I know for a fact she will not do well with collars like that. She gets scared if we even slightly raise our voice. There is not a right or wrong way to raise a dog because they are all so different

  13. The only issue I have with my pup is his selective memory when it come to pottying.

    He pees in the about an hour after I take him out sometimes. I’ve had him since he’s been 4 months and he’s 10 months today.

  14. I love your blog. I can so relate to everything you say. I have a 11 week old lab puppy. And I also could not live with her if I did not take her out for atleast 20min walk twice a day. I have also been bombarded that I am doing everything wrong. Letting her play too much, run too much, let her sleep alone all these things. I have practically been accused of animal cruilty. Thank you so much for your good advice. It makes me feel better that others struggle with the same things.

  15. I think what is lacking in this conversation is TRAINING. People here saying they “couldn’t live” with their puppy if they didn’t walk it until it was tired…just, what? I have Malinois – busiest breed EVER – and when they are puppies I don’t take them out much until their vaccines are completed. I keep them busy with TRAINING. “A tired dog is a good dog” maybe – for people who are too lazy to spend concerted time keeping their dogs’ minds busy. Their dogs grow up to be annoying terrors to the rest of the world, with no manners and no ability to walk calmly on a leash. Puppies don’t need to run off leash. They don’t need to walk until they are tired. They DEFINTELY don’t need insane amounts of exercise. And, call me crazy, but I listen to reputable veterinarians when they give me puppy advice. With the advice in this article, you probably won’t kill your puppy (unless it gets parvo or another disease which is very possible when they are young) but the advice you are “debunking” is sound advice. If you “can’t live” with your puppy unless it’s exhausted, it’s not the breed for you.

  16. Carol (Mattie's Mom)

    We adopted our Mattie, a rescue, about 6 weeks ago. She was 6 months old at the time. It has been 30 years since we had a puppy (our dogs in that 30 year time frame had been 1 yr or more), so it was like adopting a teenager when you had no previous relationship. WOW! We struggled so the first few weeks as we had company and could not let her run loose in the house. Eventually, we did start a routine of exercising her in a small fenced in ring twice a day. Things were going well until we had a ‘heat wave’ and we didn’t get out to exercise. Next was the issue of walking. After 5 weeks of walking (and pulling) a nice saleslady in Petsmart recommended a harness p (Sporn Non-pull by Top Paw) that she said that she used for all of her dogs. At first Mattie went ballistic and it didn’t address her ability to jump on us. For the next few days, we practiced in the house walking up and down our hall. When I felt comfortable, I ventured outside. Big improvement! Mattie does sit, down, wait and take it in the house; she knows how to behave, but things set her off (like we need to take something out of her mouth) as well as the evening zoomy, jumping and biting. We have tried kenneling her for 10-15 minutes (if we can catch her), we both need a time-out! Sometimes that works and sometimes, no. If she was a child, I would say that she is strong-willed! Thankfully, she is treat motivated. I too have been reluctant to take her to a trail to walk as I never know how she will act (jumping and biting) and if I am too far from home, will I be able to manage. Thank you for your encouraging post.

  17. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to write about their concerns/experiences. I find them all very interesting and useful. I recently acquired an 8week old Welsh Sheepdog puppy, ( my 5th dog over 40yrs) she’s now 12weeks and a bundle of energy. I’ve been walking her for the past week ( 1 week after her last vaccination ) for 30 – 40 minutes in the morning and will be adding a 2nd evening walk starting today. When I had my 1st puppy you played it by ear, bought a book (if you could find one) or watched a Barbara Woodhouse training programme on the TV. Now we have the internet which is a minefield of often conflicting information. I’m not surprised owners are confused. Needless to say my dogs were all different but I got better at training them. I discovered that because each dog was different Training methods had ti2 Labradors, 2 Border Collies and now a WSD. I’ve not had a puppy for 28 yrs and I’d forgotten how difficult it can be.

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