When you think of bringing home a new puppy, you’re likely more focused on hours of playtime, endless cuddles on the couch, and that delightful puppy breath aroma—not problematic behaviors. However, your new pup is a clean slate, and you have to lay the foundation for a well-mannered family companion. With no training plan in place, your puppy may wind up as an unruly, large-breed dog who destroys furniture, urinates in your home, and is difficult to walk in public. To help you set your puppy up for success, our Juanita Hills Animal Hospital team is sharing tips on preventing problem behaviors in puppies.
Problem: Jumping on people
Prevention method: Jumping up to greet people is a common puppy behavior that may be cute when a tiny puppy is trying to jump up to your knee, but not so adorable when a full-grown Labrador is leaping at your face. Do not let your puppy learn that jumping up is acceptable—remove your attention when they do so, because removing what they want—attention—will teach them that jumping does not get them what they want. Instead, only pet your puppy when they have all four paws on the ground. This will teach them that they have to stay on the ground to get what they want. Once your puppy learns some patience and self-control when they see visitors, you can also work on asking them to sit before petting them.
Problem: Inappropriate elimination
Prevention method: House-training a puppy can often frustrate pet owners, since puppies seem to have short attention spans and often will urinate right where they are playing. To teach your puppy not to urinate and defecate in your home—most importantly—never yell at or hit them when you find a mess or catch them in the act. Instead, quickly interrupt your puppy with “No,” and then pick them up and take them outside to the designated bathroom area. Once your puppy finishes, praise them, and offer a reward immediately. Do not wait until you get back inside to give the treat, because your puppy will then associate the reward with coming inside, and not eliminating outdoors.
Also, be consistent when house-training your puppy. Exit from the same door, head to the same spot in the yard, and use the same cue words to encourage your puppy to eliminate. With consistency and patience, your pup will soon catch on to the expected behavior.
Problem: Destructive behavior
Prevention method: Puppies naturally want to chew on everything because that is how they explore their world. However, many household items are unsafe when chewed or ingested, so you must teach your puppy what they can and cannot chew. Put away as many items as you can, and distract your puppy from chewing on the rest. When you catch your puppy chewing on something they shouldn’t, interrupt them with a firm “No,” and redirect them to an appropriate chew toy. Do not chase the puppy to make them give up what is in their mouth, because your pup will think it’s a game and take off. Instead, bribe your puppy with a new, interesting, appropriate toy to swap out. With time and consistent reinforcing the items that are acceptable for chewing, your pup will learn they cannot eat your couch.
Problem: Reactivity while walking on a leash
Prevention method: Many dogs who were undersocialized as puppies show heightened reactivity toward other dogs, people, and new environments. To help prevent this problem, participate in positive socialization during your puppy’s socialization period from 2 to 12 weeks of age, when they are most open to new experiences and form opinions of their world. They will learn how to respond to other dogs, strange people, and different environments, and the positive exposure will help them remain calm and confident in future situations.
You can also prevent reactivity and pulling on the leash by training your puppy to focus on you while walking. When your puppy looks to you for direction, reward them with praise and a treat. With time, you can add a command to the action so you can urge your puppy to watch you rather than the excitable dog in your path.
You will want to prevent not only problem behaviors in your new puppy, but also infectious diseases and parasites. Once you welcome your new pup home, give our Juanita Hills Animal Hospital team a call to schedule their first wellness visit.