Ah, puppies! These lively, excitable little bundles of joy can breathe new energy and excitement into a home, but without proper care and training they can also create a lot of chaos. Learn how basic training and management can prevent unwanted behaviors and protect your puppy from the world—and themselves—with this five-step guide from South Shores Pet Clinic.
#1: Watch me—supervising your puppy
Who doesn’t want to stare at a puppy all day? Their irresistible charm makes this an easy task, plus puppies need constant supervision when they are outside their crate or pen. Like a toddler, puppies can cause big trouble in only a few moments. When they do, your puppy’s health, safety, and training are at risk—and each time your puppy rehearses an undesirable behavior (e.g., chewing, escaping, house soiling), that will more likely become a habit.
As a general rule, if you cannot give your puppy your undivided attention, keep them in their crate or pen. Alternatively, you can tether the puppy to your body with a hands-free leash, which can be a great way to teach them boundaries as you go about household tasks, although an attentive owner is still required. Never tether your puppy to a stationary object to prevent strangulation and injury.
#2: Protect me—secure your puppy’s environment
Puppies have a knack for finding the most dangerous item in a room, and then attempting to chew on, play with, or eat the hazard. They’re not being dumb, difficult, or “bad”—they’re simply following their instincts. Puppies explore and learn from their environment through smell and taste. Chewing also alleviates their teething pain and releases feel-good endorphins in the puppy’s brain.
Rather than disciplining your puppy or experiencing a veterinary emergency, ensure your home is completely puppy-proofed. Ensure all dangerous items are out of your puppy’s reach, including:
- Electrical cords
- External doors
- Open windows
- Medications and supplements
- Household toxins
- Toxic plants
- Breakable items
- Decorations—especially anything that includes a string or dangling ornaments
#3: Manage me—maintain a consistent puppy routine
Maintaining a consistent routine is one of the most instrumental, but most overlooked, ways to prevent common puppy behavior problems. To ensure your puppy learns what you expect, they must know what to expect from their environment. Like us, dogs and puppies feel safe when they know what’s coming next.
While finding the right rhythm for you both will take time—from a few days to a week, or more—try to be consistent with your puppy’s primary needs, including:
- Food and water — Feed your puppy several small meals at scheduled times each day. Scheduling meals prevents picky eating, and creates predictable elimination habits, which improve your puppy’s house training. Remove your puppy’s water bowl a few hours before bedtime, to reduce their need for overnight potty breaks.
- Rest — Rest is essential for puppy health and development, and crate training is a great way to ensure your puppy rests at regular intervals. As your puppy grows, so will the length between their naps, although this can lead to over-arousal behaviors (e.g., nipping, humping, jumping up) because the puppy is overtired. Keeping them on a schedule will help them learn self-control.
- Exercise — Regular, low-impact exercise sessions help your puppy mentally and physically. Stick to gentle toy play, brief chase sessions, and short leash walks until your South Shores Pet Clinic veterinarian says your puppy is old enough for more physical activity (e.g., jumping, sustained running, repetitive fetch).
- Separation — Ensure your puppy has daily alone time in their crate or pen. Provide a fun distraction, such as a food-stuffed Kong, and quietly leave home while your puppy is preoccupied. Short, positive sessions will help your puppy learn to be alone and will help prevent separation anxiety.
#4: Show me—teach your puppy with kindness
Puppies learn by acting on their environment, making choices, and experiencing the good or bad consequences. By simply remembering these principles, you can give your puppy a clearer understanding of their world:
- Be on their side — In every circumstance, make the right choices easy and the wrong choices difficult.
- Use consistent commands and tone — Mixed messages will slow your puppy’s learning.
- Set them up for success — If you haven’t provided proper chew toys, don’t be surprised when the puppy chews on your table legs. And, why were they unsupervised?
- Mistakes happen — As puppies grow and develop, they may need gentle reminders on how to behave, but these setbacks are normal, especially during adolescence. Do not punish or scold them when a kind reminder will suffice.
#5: Engage me—show your puppy the world
Proper socialization helps your puppy build positive associations with everything from people, to activities (e.g., grooming, veterinary visits), to objects (e.g., vacuum cleaner, nail trimmers), and prevents fearful, reactive, or aggressive behavior.
Your puppy’s safety and confidence are always your number one priority. Introduce new things slowly, and watch your puppy’s body language for stress signs. If your puppy repeatedly demonstrates worsening fear or panic in new situations, consult a professional trainer.
Love me—enjoy your puppy
Puppies are a labor of love, but with these five steps, you can ensure their early life is full of confidence-building fun. For additional puppy training advice or to schedule your puppy’s next visit, contact South Shores Pet Clinic.