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October 25, 2023

Rather than mistakes dog owners make, maybe I should call this ... the dumbest things I ever did when it comes to dogs. Granted, most of them happened when I was much younger and less experienced with being responsible for 100% of my dogs' care. Get ready to laugh (or be horrified).

My Dog Owner Mistake #1: Two dogs, One Crate

We lived with just 1 dog initially - a Dalmatian named Penelope Grace. That lasted about a year, and Mr. Champion of My Heart wanted to adopt another dog. I cried about it because I feared Penelope wouldn't need me as much. That's when we adopted Cody, a yellow lab mix. I didn't know enough about dog behavior to understand their interactions, which at times seemed contentious to me. Looking back, I know that it really wasn't. But, what did I do? I stuffed them into a single crate and said, "Get along!!"

dog owner mistakes

For short car rides, I do sometimes put Clover and Tori in the same crate, but they adore each other and don't mind squishing together for a bit. 

Why is that dumb? This is a TERRIBLE idea for dogs that don't really know or trust each other yet. It very easily could have turned into a bloody fight. Thankfully, it did not because they both had solid temperaments. Unless it's an absolute emergency (like a disaster evacuation), NEVER put 2 unfamiliar dogs into 1 crate.

mistakes dog owners make page graphic

Mistakes Dog Owners Make #2: Feeding the Wrong Fruits and Vegetables

Early on, I genuinely did not know that grapes and raisins can be toxic for dogs. I also did not know what a terrible idea it is to let dogs eat corn cobs. If you have a dog who nibbles hilariously at corn, you can understand how hard it is not to let them have some corn on the cob. Our first dog, Penelope, that I mentioned above at all 3 things pretty often. She did eventually develop chronic kidney disease, but she and Cody also got poisoned in our old neighborhood, so it's hard to know what really pushed her over the edge. 

Why is that dumb? So, grapes and raisins can be toxic to dogs. What's interesting is that the kidney damage doesn't happen to all dogs, but it is not worth the risk. As for the corn cobs, it's a dumb idea because they can cause:

  • Deadly intestinal obstructions
  • Dangerous GI abrasion and distress

My Worse Mistake as a Dog Owner: Tennis Ball Felt

When our most recent foster pup TONKA crushed and peeled part of a tennis ball, it reminded me of a harrowing experience we also had with Penelope back when I was young and stupid. 

mistakes dog owners make - photo of dog chewing on tennis ball

Penelope once popped and peeled a tennis ball with all the felt in one big piece. Then she ate the whole thing. She threw it up soon after, but I wasn't fast enough, and she ate it again. Inexperienced (and dumb me) ... I took a wait-and-see attitude. Gah!

Why is that dumb? So many reasons. Simply put, it absolutely could have killed her. Alas:

  • I didn't know that the veterinarian could induce vomiting before the tennis ball felt did any damage. 
  • I didn't understand the risk of a deadly digestive blockage.

Thankfully, the long entire tennis ball felt came out the other end without anything worse happening. Yes, it got stuck coming out, and I grabbed a handful of paper towels, grabbed the felt, and yanked it out. (Also, very, very stupid.) So, it turned out okay, but do not risk it. If your dog ever eats something it shouldn't, immediately get emergency veterinary help to induce vomiting (if that's the safe thing to do ... with some types of risks vomiting actually makes things worse).  

mistakes dog owners make second graphic -- know better do better

We Could Add Behavior / Training Things Too?

I could certainly add things to my list of mistakes dog owners make like using "choke chain collars" for training or following a "balanced trainer's" advice on doing something called the "Yellowstone Down" that I now realize is total BS and based on debunked / retracted interpretations of wolf behavior in Yellowstone. Oy! Thankfully, our late Lilly -- the original canine heroine of the site -- forgave me on that second one. 

What Would You Add to a List of Mistakes Dog Owners Make?

Your turn. Feel brave enough to share the mistakes you've made as a dog owner? Share in the comments. 

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. What is a "Yellowstone Down"? I couldn't find it googling. I remember coming home years ago and my Old English Sheepdog had the end of a knee-hi nylon sticking out her butt. Vet said give her a stick of butter and put her outside. Yep that worked. He said "DON'T PULL as it could be caught in the colon. Your tennis ball felt experience reminded me of that. Taking dogs to obedience classes always used to involve choke chains that were supposed to be removed when not training/walking them. Thanks for all your good info all the time!

    1. Basically, that totally bogus Yellowstone Down just means that you keep physically laying your dog down into a down-stay, and if they get up, you don’t say anything, you just physically lie them down again and again as along as it takes before they stop getting up. Lilly, being her amazing self, only got up a couple of times, then stayed put. The concept is based in the debunked dominance theory of wolf behavior in Yellowstone, which has no bearing on dogs at all because those original groups of wolves way back when were NOT natural family units but wolves who didn’t know each other thrown together where there was extra conflict, etc.

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