A new puppy is a wonderful thing. Puppy breath, clumsy paws, and endearing licks and romping make the early days with a new puppy a memorable and joyous experience. Bringing home a new addition to the family can come with its own set of challenges though. Many love their canine companions like children, but puppies are not children, they are dogs, and should be expected to behave as such. Puppy behavior can be adorable, but it can also be baffling and even vexing at times.
All puppy behaviors serve some purpose in canine communication. Whether it’s playfully nipping or growling, jumping up on people, or chewing and whining, everything your puppy does is something that its canine siblings and mother would understand and respond to appropriately. Unfortunately humans don’t always understand what these cues mean, or how to address them in a way that your puppy understands. Like children, puppies are curious and love to explore their environment, they’re also eager to learn how things work and anxious to please you and fit in as a member of the family ‘pack.’ They don’t realize that their troublesome behaviors are an annoyance to you. Gentle reinforcement, consistency, and Here’s a guide to understanding common puppy behaviors with some tips for curbing the undesirable ones.
What it is: Nipping/Biting
Why They Do It: A puppy’s nip is a very different thing from an aggressive bite. A dog’s mouth is a powerful sensory organ, almost like an extra hand, providing the puppy with all kinds of exciting information about the world around it. A puppy also plays with its siblings by nipping, it’s a great way to communicate and learn about the personality of your fellow pups. Some breeds are nippier than others but regardless of breed or size, it’s a trait that needs to be nipped in the bud. Small puppy teeth playfully grazing your skin may be one thing now, but can turn into a much bigger problem down the road with a bigger dog.
How To Control It: Puppies learn a lot from nipping by the reaction they get from those around them. A puppies litter mate with thick fur and skin will react very differently from a person with tender skin and no fur. The most important thing with any training method is to be consistent; every member of the family must use the same technique and use it every time. Some dogs will take more time and a sterner approach than others. Start out with a simple, but firm “No bite!” every time. If puppy starts to respond, continue with that every time. If not, use a sharp, high-pitched yelp, as if the nip really hurt you. Make sure that everyone uses the same sharp yelp. This way the puppy will understand that humans are not to be mouthed and nipped at, ever.
What it is: Chewing
Why They Do It: Just like with nipping, chewing offers a lot of sensory experience to the growing puppy. Chewing is a behavior that tends to peak during the teething phase at 16 weeks but can start earlier and last much longer. Puppies get a lot of satisfaction from chewing on something: it relieves stress, strengthens their growing jaw, alleviates teething pain, cleans their teeth, and just plain feels good. Stopping a puppy from chewing is impossible, the key here is to give them the right things to chew on so they don’t go after those expensive shoes or dining chairs.
How To Control It: Chewing can take a bit more work than other habits to break and control. Puppies feel a strong need to chew and don’t understand that to you there’s a big difference between a shoe and a rawhide bone. Therefore the most successful technique here is puppy proofing. The best way to puppy proof is to start with a small and easily closed off area (such as a kitchen or bathroom) or use a puppy gate to keep your dog confined to an area. Clear this area of dangerous items (like electrical cords or poisonous plants) and be sure to stock it with plenty of acceptable, chewable items like chew toys and rawhide bones.
What It Is: Crying/Whining/Excessive Barking
Why They Do It: Man’s best friend gets along with us so well because we’re both social animals. Your puppy needs to be around you all the time. If puppy has a sleeping place that is out of sight or smell of you, she might cry and whine incessantly all night long. When you leave for work, it might not bother you, but your neighbors may become tired of hearing your puppy whine and cry all day.
How To Control It: The good news is that most puppies will outgrow this annoying behavior with time as they develop confidence in being alone and come to learn that you always come back, but you can save your ears (and good relations with your neighbors) in the mean time with these few simple tricks. Leave something with your puppy that smells like you: an old sweatshirt that you don’t mind if it gets chewed up or some old socks work great. Leave some quiet and soothing music or the TV on to provide comforting background noise. There are even some channels today that cater to dogs with images of dogs playing and noises that puppies find soothing.
Bringing home a new puppy should be a joyous occasion, not a stressful time. Hopefully these tips will help smooth your beloved canine companion’s transition from playful and troublesome pet to model dog citizen and ideal housemate.