We all make mistakes, especially when we experience new responsibilities such as dog ownership. No matter how much you prep or how many expert books you read, it's inevitable. As a newbie dog owner, you're going to make a few mistakes.
Well... maybe you won't. But I'll admit, despite good intentions, I made some. So, here I've collected my top mistakes as the owner of a good natured Basset Hound named Hunter.
We were warned!
Before we brought Hunter home, as a four month old puppy, my husband and I were given excellent instructions and advice on how to care for him. Among other things, we were given guidance on how much and how often to feed him. Additionally, we were told, "Don't make an abrupt change in his diet because this most likely will upset his digestive system. If you do decide to change his diet, do so slowly over a number of days. Mix a small amount of the new dog food in with the old brand. Gradually increase the new brand and decrease the old brand over a number of days." You see - simple, detailed instructions.
But, we're stubborn and independent (just like a Basset Hound). When we got home, we abruptly switched to a different brand of dog food. And guess what happened? Hunter's stomach was upset and he got diarrhea. In the end, we dealt with the problem that we created and Hunter was fine. But, we should have listened!
As a newbie dog owner, respect the experts, ask questions, and as always use common sense and good judgment.
As my husband and I trained our new puppy, we learned that dogs are pack animals and the pack has a leader. Your dog needs to see you as the leader of the pack, which is your family. We also read that the leader should enter or exit through doorways ahead of his dog, i.e. he should lead.
So one morning, I was upstairs getting ready for work and my husband was getting ready to take Hunter out for his morning walk. I heard the door slam and then almost immediately I heard a loud, constant howl and whimpering sound coming from Hunter.
I ran downstairs to see what was the matter. My husband told me that he went out the back door ahead of Hunter, like the pack leader is suppose to, and then he inadvertently slammed the door on Hunter's tail. Ouch -- poor puppy! I know it hurt because Hunter ran over to me howling and he didn't stop for quite a while.
From the beginning Hunter was never interested in being Alpha and has rarely, if ever, displayed dominate behavior toward the family. I guess we didn't need to slam the door on his tail to get the point across.
Chill out. Let the dog go out the door first! Of course if you have a dominate dog, you may not want to do this. But in our situation, it worked out fine. Hunter's tail was never slammed in the door again, he knows he's not pack leader, and doesn't seem to care.
On a more serious note...
During our first summer with Hunter, we had to take him to the vet because he kept throwing up after eating meals. The vet checked him out and then informed us that he was dehydrated. He needed to be placed on an IV overnight to replenish his body fluids.
How did this happen? No, I didn't leave him in the car on a hot summer day as I ran errands. We all know not to do that because it can be deadly. Temperatures inside a car can rise to unbearable levels even on a warm day. Leaving the car in the shade or cracking the window provides little relief. If you're going somewhere that doesn't welcome dogs, then leave him home.
Back to my story... I took Hunter for some long walks on hot summer days and this was enough to dehydrate him.
My vet informed me that it can be a vicious cycle. When a dog becomes overheated or doesn't feel good, he stops drinking and this can quickly lead to dehydration. Apparently the heat wore him down, he stopped drinking, and I didn't even notice.
Dogs can become dehydrated very quickly in the summer. Don't take long walks or over-exert on hot summer days. Take precautions to ensure that your dog does not become overheated and make sure that he's drinking water.
For the most part, Hunter has always been very healthy. Every year when we took him to the vet for his annual visit, he received a good bill of health. But one year (he was 4 years old), the vet informed us that Hunter was chubby (5 pounds over weight). I couldn't believe it because I honestly thought he looked great. I was wrong!
He gained too much weight because we started taking him for one walk per day instead of two after my daughter was born and we didn't reduce his food in take. On top of that, we gave him too many treats because those pleading eyes can get to you.
Our vet advised us to reduce the daily feeding amount, which we did, and we were able to get him back to his ideal weight.
Many dogs become overweight due to over feeding and / or insufficient exercise and most owners don't even realize it. To prevent health problems, maintain your dog's ideal weight. Adjust the daily feeding amount according to his activity level and make sure that he gets enough exercise.
So far, those are the top mistakes I can think of while owning a Basset Hound. It's a wonder Hunter has lived through it all! If I make more or think of others, I'll be sure to add them to the list.