Education is the key to having a well behaved puppy. It is essential for owners to have open communication with their veterinary team as well as educating themselves about puppy behavior before any issues arise. Our veterinarians recommend the following:
- Raising Puppies and Kids Together by Pia Silvani
- Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy by Suzanne Hetts, PhD
- First Steps with Puppies and Kittens by Linda M. White
- www.airparkanimal.com; see “Useful Links” for additional resources
- www.animalbehaviorassociates.com; Drs. Hetts and Estep have created a website with very useful information for pet owners and trainers as well as veterinary professionals
- www.avsabonline.org; a resource for vital information on the correct handling and training of dogs
Start teaching your puppy as soon as he comes home. Reward and encourage good behavior. Do not physically punish unwanted behaviors. Give your puppy every opportunity to choose the right behavior and reward him. Protect him from dangerous situations that may harm him. We recommend a basic puppy class. You may start classes two weeks after the first vaccination visit.
If you notice any other puppies in the class sneezing, coughing or who have diarrhea, keep your puppy far away from them as these may be signs of contagious infection or disease.
Puppies jump up to seek attention, and this behavior is often encouraged by owners when the puppy is young. We do not recommend that you allow your puppy to get into this habit. As your puppy grows, jumping behavior is considered less desirable. Many dogs, particularly large breeds, are surrendered to shelters because they jump up on people. Your puppy needs to learn from an early age that he will get no attention when he is jumping up.
A general rule for puppy owners: Never pay attention to a puppy that does not have all four feet on the ground. If your puppy jumps up, ignore him, look away, and do not pay any attention until he stops jumping. Refrain from grabbing, squeezing, or pinching your puppy’s feet when he jumps up. Do not raise your voice, push him, or bring up your knee to make contact with his chest. When he settles down, reward your puppy for calm behavior and standing quietly on all four feet. You may need to repeat this practice many times. Pushy puppies: Puppies will often nudge their owner’s hand, arm, or leg for attention. Our natural instinct is to reach down and pet the puppy. Doing this reinforces the behavior and can teach your puppy that being pushy gives him what he wants. Ignore this behavior and wait until your puppy is calm to give him attention. Alternatively, if you are not able or interested in giving your puppy attention at that time, give him a command (i.e. “enough”) and ignore this behavior. If he jumps up, lunges or barks, simply ignore the puppy and walk away. When he settles down, reward your puppy for calm behavior. Teaching your puppy a command like “enough” will help him understand that he is not being punished if you cannot pet or play with him at that time. Barking: Barking can be reinforced by you giving in to your puppy’s demands. For example, if you allow your barking puppy to come indoors, or if you feed, praise, play with, or approach your dog to quiet him, it may encourage barking. Reward your puppy only when he is behaving appropriately and quietly. Play biting and nipping: If your puppy has enough energy to play bite and nip, he may not be getting enough exercise and is releasing his pent-up energy by biting. To avoid this, take your puppy outside for some exercise. Let him thoroughly run around and play hard for 10-15 minutes. After this exercise, your puppy will be much less likely to ‘mouth’ you. Once you have exercised your puppy, offer a chew toy or food dispensing toy that will keep him busy. To avoid mixed signals, a dog should never be allowed to put teeth on skin even if gentle. Avoid games that encourage your puppy to attack any part of your body, and don’t wear gloves during play to allow your puppy to bite.
Puppies explore the world with their mouths so it is normal for them to put their mouths on everything. We recommend owners provide safe, “puppy-proof” areas for your pet to live and play in. Puppies need to be protected from the temptation to explore electrical cords and small objects that they can chew and swallow. Puppies can make a chew toy out of anything, including the remote control and its batteries. Close doors, use baby gates, use short-term crate confinement when you cannot supervise your puppy directly. Do not give your puppy items to chew that are similar to household items that you do not want destroyed. Your puppy might not be able to distinguish between old and new shoes, so avoid giving an “old” shoe as a chew toy. Keep in mind that unwanted chewing on anything is never caused by your puppy’s desire to “get even” with you. If your puppy has something in its mouth that it should not be chewing, we recommend you offer an alternative such as a safe toy or a piece of food rather than prying the object out of his mouth. Puppies who have things pried out of their mouths repeatedly can become resource guarders, develop aggression, or learn to swallow the object before it can be taken away.
Puppy/Dog Care Information
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