Puppy Behaviors to Nip in the Bud Early
Training your new puppy early is the most effective way to set them up for success as adult dogs. Because the earlier you teach your puppy certain skills, the more likely it is to become a lifelong habit. You should start your puppy’s training as soon as they get settled in their new home. Basic obedience habits like “sit”, “down”, and “stay” are vital to developing positive communication between you and your pet. Socialization is also imperative from an early age and the *main* reason for enrolling your puppy in a training program is socialization. The socialization period for puppies lasts from about 3 weeks to 3 months of age. This is the key time to make them well-rounded and loving pups who are comfortable around other dogs. Training will also help you and your puppy to bond!
70-80% of socialization should be environmental. Taking your puppy on walks and introducing them to the world around them and all the sounds that come with it. This along with training will ensure you have a less fearful, more resilient dog. “Positive” versus “disastrous” behaviors as far as training is concerned are difficult to determine because while some behaviors are acceptable to one owner, they’re not to another. We’ve compiled the 5 most common puppy problems to correct early below.
Puppies and dogs jump on us because they crave attention. When we push them away, they think it is a game, and continue to leap because they’re playing. If we want them to stop jumping, we need to give them an alternative. Ignore them so that they stop the behavior because they are not getting the attention they want. Then, teach them to sit and reward them with a treat so that they correlate that obeying a sit command leads to a treat and jumping leads to no attention.
Poor leash manners
Having questionable leash manners isn’t the end of the world. However, if your puppy grows into a big dog and you are a small human, it can be quite difficult to walk them. As a puppy, you should teach your dog not to pull on its leash. You can do this by keeping the length of their leash short, halting them when they pull, and rewarding them with a treat when they’re not pulling. Once you get back home from your walk, you can take off their leash, ask them to sit and reward them with another treat. Training them how to walk on a leash when they’re still a puppy prevents leash anxiety once they’re an adult dog. Having appropriate leash manners also prevents your dog from getting off the leash, and jumping on or attacking another dog or person.
Nipping / play biting
The most dangerous behaviors in puppies are those that can harm them long-term if left unmanaged. Puppies that like to nip and “play” with their mouths might grow up to be dogs who like to bite. This is dangerous for both you and your dog. Early management and intervention is the most effective way to nip this behavior in the bud. Every time your puppy does this, take their mouth away and walk away from them. Repeat this same technique until they stop and then reward them with a treat. Yelling does nothing to stop this type of behavior or any behavior. Dogs are both repetition and reward motivated.
It’s important to know the difference between guarding and aggression. Guarding is when a dog feels the need to hide or protect objects, most commonly food or their toys. They may growl as a warning if another person or pet comes near them while they’re “guarding”. If this behavior is left unchecked, your dog could develop aggression such as lunging and biting. When you are first training your puppy not to guard, provide your puppy with lots of toys and treats. This will make your puppy feel confident that you won’t take away their toys and that if you do, they will get them back. Start off by having the toys close to you. Try to stay in the same place and begin to move slowly. When they drop the toy, give them another toy or a treat, and then give them the toy back. Keep repeating with different toys until your puppy becomes comfortable. If you have another dog in your home, keep the other dog away as you are working with them one-on-one. Reward your puppy when they are allowing the other dog to chew on a toy by either giving them a treat and/or pets. The message is that they receive treats and attention when they share. For food guarding, you should feed your puppy straight from your hand or place handfuls of food in the bowl. Once they finish eating, have them wait, and then add more food. Having them wait for your “okay” to eat teaches them appropriate manners. If you ever suspect your dog has aggressive behavior, speak to your veterinarian.
Dogs communicate with us by barking, and letting your puppy know that you are listening to them is an essential part of training. Letting them know when to be quiet is also an essential part of training a well-behaved dog. The key is allowing your dog to bark when the situation calls for it and stopping them from barking when the situation does not call for it. After all, you don’t want to be the neighbor with all of the complaints about a noisy dog.
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- ASPCA Pro. (2021). American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Behavioral Help For Your Pet. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/behavioral-help-your-pet