How to Manage Common Puppy Issues

Puppy eyes are why we adopt them, but those eyes tend to do less and less to get them out of trouble when bad behavior starts. Luckily, puppies are very receptive to learning from you during their formative years, and Off-Leash K9 is here to help get you started on the right paw (er… foot). This article helps you manage unwanted puppy behaviors including:

  1. Jumping
  2. Rough play
  3. Biting Hands & Mouthing
  4. Destructive Behavior
  5. Barking
  6. Digging
  7. Motion Sickness
  8. Handling
  9. Mounting Behavior
  10. Eating Feces

When dealing with unwanted puppy behaviors (which become adult dog behaviors if not corrected early on), it’s crucial for pet parents to remember that effective correction must be administered at the time the offense is committed. Startling a puppy with a stern “NO” or loud noise , but only if it’s at the time of the offense.

Never punish your puppy after the fact. He will have no idea why you are correcting him because the offense he committed occurred too long ago. Whenever you correct your puppy, always make him sit and then praise the good behavior of sitting.

And whenever you’re ready, check out Off-Leash K9’s digital Puppy Training course for additional in-depth guidance on raising the perfect puppy.

1. Jumping and Pawing

When your puppy jumps up and places his paws on you, he is seeking your attention. If you push him down or “knee” him in the chest, he is still getting your attention, even if it is negative of attention. The best response is to turn and walk away without saying anything. When your pup next approaches you, make him sit before he has the opportunity to jump up, then reward and praise him for sitting. Your puppy must always sit for everything he receives, and when he sits, you must reward him for his good behavior.

2. Rough Play

When you play physical games with your puppy, you are teaching him that hands and arms are fun things to grab. Younger children in the family often pay the price for the rough play instigated by older children or adults. It is better to use toys as play objects and have your puppy learn to fetch them when thrown.

If your puppy steals an item such as a sock or piece of clothing, and you chase him, he will soon learn that stealing things is a good way to get your attention. For some, it is fun to interact with their puppy in this manner. If you don’t enjoy this game, the next time your puppy steals an item and runs from you, turn and walk in the opposite direction.

3. Biting Hands and Mouthing

Puppies must be taught to be gentle when their mouths and teeth come in contact with a human. If your puppy gently puts his mouth on your hand, that’s okay for now. As he gets older, around 12-16 weeks of age, you should discourage him from placing his mouth on your hands. If he bites down on your hand a little too hard, give a stern “OFF,” then turn and walk away. Your puppy will learn that if he bites a human too hard, he will lose his playmate. Provide him with plenty of items he is allowed to chew on as alternatives to your more delicate fingers and toes.

4. Destructive Behavior

A puppy is unable to use his paws to pick up items, so he resorts to chewing on them instead. Chewing is a natural behavior for a puppy, so it is important to direct him to chew on safe items which you provide for him. Until your puppy is older and you can trust him not to be destructive, you should never leave him unattended.

Providing a supply of items to chew on is the key to preventing destructive behavior. Praise him when he chews on the items you provide. It is also a good idea to give him a safe item to chew on when he is left unattended in his crate or dog cage. Buy several different items, such as pigs ears or appropriately sized natural bones, and rotate them to keep him interested in appropriate chewing.

5. Barking

Barking is a normal response for all dogs to some external stimuli in their environment. When outdoors, your puppy may see other dogs, strangers, kids, a cat, or any number of things to bark at. We advise you always monitor outdoor activity and bring your pup indoors if his barking might bother a neighbor. If your puppy barks for attention, give him a stern “OFF,” make him sit, and praise him for sitting. If he continues to bark, isolate him in a room where he is left alone so he will learn that barking will get him banished from family activities.

Barking is one of the most common behavioral issues that Off-Leash K9 helps frustrated dog parents with during free consultations. Give your puppy a positive head start with our in-depth Puppy Training Video Course to mitigate this behavior from a young age.

6. Digging

Digging is a normal canine activity. Your puppy may smell a mole or chipmunk in the flowerbed and try to dig it out. He may want to bury and hide a favorite bone. He may make a game out of tugging on a shrub or plant root.

Unless you are outside to stop the behavior, digging is a very difficult problem to solve. If you can determine why your puppy is digging you can usually correct the behavior. If there is a chipmunk in the flowerbed, expect your puppy to continue digging until you get rid of it. If he is bored, provide plenty of chew items.

If you catch him digging, a stern “OFF” may suffice. If you go outside and find a new hole, do not scold him. You have to catch him in the act of digging for the reprimand to work.

7. Motion Sickness

Do not feed your puppy prior to a car ride. Take him on short trips and gradually increase the length of the rides once he becomes accustomed to the motion of the car. Take plenty of paper towels or newspapers to place under him if he starts to vomit. If he is still getting sick when you take him in the car, you can administer an over-the-counter motion sickness drug as instructed by your veterinarian. If you take your puppy on frequent short trips in the car, he will eventually not get sick, and you can forego medication.

8. Handling

Eventually, all dogs will need to have their toenails trimmed, their ears cleaned, their hair combed, or their teeth brushed. If you try to trim a dog’s nails for the first time when he weighs 80 pounds, good luck! You will most likely have an unpleasant wrestling match on your hands.

How do you acclimate a dog to these procedures? Start by performing nail trims and ear cleanings when your puppy is eight weeks old. Get him used to having just the tips of his nails trimmed. Do one or two nails at a time and trim just the sharp tips so you don’t cut too far and make them bleed. You don’t want to hurt your puppy and have him become fearful. After trimming a few nails, reward him with a treat or play his favorite game. Help create a positive association with the event. Do the same thing when you clean his ears or brush his teeth. When your puppy is near you, handle his feet, look in his ears and open his mouth. If you do this every time he is around, he will become increasingly desensitized.

9. Mounting Behavior

Mounting is not always a sexually motivated behavior. Dogs mount other dogs to show control or dominance. If small children are the target and they cannot defend themselves, you will have to intervene. If your puppy is mounting a small child, say “OFF” to the puppy in a stern voice. If adults or older children are involved, instruct them to turn and walk away without saying anything when the puppy first attempts to mount. Your puppy will soon get the message.

10. Eating Feces

Nobody is exactly sure why dogs eat their own feces. Some feel there are materials in the feces that have nutritional value, but it is unlikely there is a deficiency in a dog’s diet if he is being fed any name-brand food.

Some puppies left confined in crates or cages for long periods may eat their own feces due to boredom. Puppies should not be left in a crate all day. If a puppy cannot be taken out of his crate to eliminate during the day, he should be confined to a small room with his cage door open. Place newspapers on the floor so if he has to eliminate, he can leave his crate and go on the papers. If your puppy is eating his own or another animal’s feces, you must catch him in the act and try to startle him as soon as he even sniffs the feces. Picking up the feces before he has a chance to reach them is the best prevention.

The Perfect Puppy Video Course

Ready to dive in deeper? Check out our Perfect Pup video course for your one-stop training shop full of tips and best practices for raising your new family member. The self-paced, at-home, video course covers:

  • Crate love training
  • Potty training
  • Basic obedience commands
  • Socialization
  • Pack leadership
  • And much more!

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