The first few days with a brand new puppy can be so exciting. They’re sleepy, they’re cuddly, and they want to be near you all the time. However, as your puppy begins to grow and their energy levels increase, those cuddly feelings are replaced by a ball of energy that can be difficult to manage. Here are some common puppy behavior problems to be on the lookout for, and some dog training you can do to stop them from turning problematic as your puppy begins to grow.
Like human babies, puppies explore the world by putting things into their mouths. When all that exploration happens with those razor sharp milk teeth that puppies have between 7-12 weeks, you may find yourself wanting to curb that behavior much sooner rather than later. In order to do this, make a high sound similar to the yelp of another dog to show your puppy that they have been playing too rough. This response to the realization that they may have hurt another animal is hardwired into your puppy’s brain, so it’s important to take advantage of that while they’re young. Then, once your puppy has pulled back, offer them an alternate object instead, such as an appropriate chew toy. If your puppy continues to show signs of biting too hard, yelp as you did before, then ignore them for 10-20 seconds before play continues, showing them that good behavior is rewarded while bad behavior is ignored.
Dogs are opportunistic feeders, meaning that they’re instinctively used to having to guard things that they see as theirs in order to keep others from taking them. One of the most puppy behavior problems is growling or snapping at others when guarding something the puppy thinks is special, such as food or a favorite toy. It’s important to correct this dog behavior before your puppy grows, especially if you have other dogs or small children who might not respect or understand boundaries as your dog grows. When trying to tackle resource guarding, like with working on biting, it’s important to trade one item for another in order to enforce good behaviors. For food guarding, take a nonthreatening stance, such as sitting or kneeling, near your dog’s bowl and drop a tasty treat into the bowl. This will show your puppy that humans approaching their food is associated with good things. If the issue is with guarding objects or toys, make sure that teaching them to “drop it” is accompanied by a trade. When doing this, the trade should always be for an object that’s more valuable to your dog, whether it’s toys or treats.
Next to potty training, making sure that your puppy has good manners on a leash is one of the puppy behavior problems that gives new owners the most anxiety. When trying to teach your puppy how to walk beside you on and off-leash, the largest journey will begin with a single step (and a lot of patience). Start by giving your puppy only a few inches of slack and standing still. Wait for the puppy to calm down (be patient, this could take a while) and once they’re sitting beside you, reward them with a treat, say “let’s go,” and then take a step, beginning the sequence again. Once your puppy has been able to stay in the sitting position a few times, reward them with longer walks, showing them that stillness will be rewarded. If you struggle with your puppy pulling, smoothly change direction. Don’t pull the leash, just go left when your dog goes right, back when they pull forward, etc. This will teach your puppy that if they don’t want to get left behind, they’ll need to stay close by your side. There are a number of collars and harnesses that can be used to correct leash manners, especially in young puppies, but make sure to consult your dog trainers to make sure that you’re using one that’s right for the particular breed of your puppy.
These are just a few of the most common puppy behavior problems, but if you stay on top of these issues before they become a problem, you and your puppy will be on the journey of a lifetime together.