The first few months with a new puppy are magical, exciting, and filled with love—and also exhausting, stressful, and uncertain. If you’ve recently added a puppy to your family, and you are finding yourself asking, “What have I gotten myself into?”, rest assured that you are not alone. You are more than capable of raising a happy, healthy, and well-behaved pet—although you may not feel that way right now. Our expert team at Alpine Animal Hospital shares tools for preventing and redirecting pesky puppy behavioral problems.
Puppy problem behavior #1: House accidents
House training your puppy requires patience and consistency. Accidents are part of the process, but you can take steps to reduce accidents and help your puppy learn proper elimination protocol.
- Take your puppy outside often — This may seem to go without saying, but many pet owners underestimate how frequently their puppy needs to go outside. To avoid accidents in the house, take your puppy outside at least every two hours, plus immediately after they awaken, during and after playtime, and after eating or drinking.
- Designate a bathroom spot — Leash your puppy and take them to the same spot to relieve themselves. Use the same command, such as “Go potty,” and immediately reward them with a high-value treat and praise.
- Establish a regular feeding schedule — Feed your puppy at the same times each day, which will make them more likely to eliminate at consistent times, as well. Depending on their age, puppies should be fed two or three times a day.
- Supervise your puppy — Keep a close eye on your puppy in the house, and quickly take them outside if you notice signs (e.g., sniffing, circling) that they may be looking for somewhere to relieve themselves. When you can’t watch your puppy, secure them in a small crate or area where they do not have room to eliminate.
- Expect mistakes — Accidents are a normal part of house training. When your puppy has an accident, do not scold them. Quickly take them outside, and praise them if they finish relieving themselves outside. Then, clean the accident area thoroughly—an essential step, because puppies will continue to soil areas that smell like urine or feces.
Puppy problem behavior #2: Biting
If a puppy has nibbled you, you know their teeth can be razor sharp. Puppies often nip and play-bite while they figure out how to play appropriately with other dogs and people, and well-intentioned owners can inadvertently reinforce their behavior when they play with their puppy. Play-biting may be cute in a puppy, but the same behavior may not be so cute when they become an adult. Never tolerate or encourage play-biting—instead, curb the behavior with these tips:
- Stop paying attention — If your puppy starts biting while playing, stop paying attention to discourage the behavior.
- Don’t play games — Avoid pushing your puppy away, or tugging a shirtsleeve from their mouth, because this can seem like a game. Immediately stop playing and walk away, and your puppy soon will learn that the fun stops if they get too rough.
- Encourage appropriate chewing — Your puppy needs to chew—but not your skin or clothes—so encourage them to chew appropriately with quality chew toys.
Puppy problem behavior #3: Hyperactivity
Puppies naturally have a lot of energy and need a lot of activity opportunities, because they are more likely to engage in problem behaviors (e.g., jumping up, destructive chewing) if they don’t get enough exercise. So, physically and mentally exercise your puppy daily with energy-releasing outlets, such as:
- Daily walks — Walking your puppy has many benefits, including familiarizing them with being leashed, providing the opportunity to explore new places and meet new people, and tiring them out.
- Basic obedience — Mental stimulation is as important as physical exercise, and teaching your puppy basic commands makes them think, and strengthens your bond.
- Puppy playtime — If you’ve ever watched puppies playing together, you know it can look exhausting. Schedule time for your puppy to interact with other puppies, or enroll them in a puppy training class where they can socialize and play with other dogs and people.
Puppy problem behavior #4: Barking
Puppies bark for many reasons, especially when they are excited or want your attention. To help prevent your puppy from barking constantly, ensure they get plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation, and never reward their barking with attention.
Puppy parenting takes a lot of work, but your efforts when they are young will pay off as they mature. Remember, no person or pet is perfect, and give yourself—and your puppy—a grace period as you navigate puppyhood. Also, ensure your puppy has regular wellness exams and the appropriate vaccinations and parasite preventives to help them live a long, healthy, and happy life. Contact our Alpine Animal Hospital team to schedule your puppy’s visit.