Spring is when many people’s thoughts turn to the idea of getting a puppy. Anyone who has ever spent time with a puppy knows they are adorable, snuggly, have that sweet puppy breath… and are a lot of work!
However, they have some behaviors that are not quite as cute as they are. Those behaviors include:
Piddling in the house
Chewing your favorite shoes
Nipping your fingers and toes
Barking for no discernable reason
Whether you’re a first-time puppy parent or need a refresher on what it’s like to bring a puppy home, here are a few tips to get you prepared.
Housetraining your Puppy
This is one of the first things you will need to teach your puppy—to do his “business” outdoors. Housetraining demands, patience, diligence and consistency. When you’re housetraining your puppy you need to keep him within eyesight at all times. A puppy allowed to roam the house is also prone to going to the bathroom in the house because he’s not being supervised and doesn’t know otherwise.
You will need to recognize your puppy’s “tells,” or his signs he shows when he has to go to the bathroom. Some puppies will whine, some will spin in circles looking for the perfect place to potty, and others will bark. Some will have no outward signals and will simply squat and go. Pay attention to your puppy’s body language and you will be better able to housetrain him.
Here are some quick tips to make housetraining easier:
Keep him close at all times
Take him out as soon as he wakes up
Take him out before bedtime
Take him out before his meals
Take him out after his meals
Praise him with pets, kind words, and treats every time he does his business outdoors
Remember: If you find an accident in the house, don’t punish your puppy. He won’t associate a punishment or a harsh word with the accident he had, and you’ll only succeed in making him fear you. Positive reinforcement makes all training sessions easier.
Unwelcome Chewing and Biting
Puppies discover the world by tasting it; so, a puppy might chew your shoes because they taste good or because chewing feels good on his teeth. A puppy will bite your fingers and toes because that is how he’s accustomed to interacting with his littermates. If you’ve ever been bitten by a puppy you know how needle sharp his teeth can be.
When your puppy bites your fingers or toes, you need to immediately give him an appropriate toy upon which to chew. Swap your fingers for his favorite toy; it’s a positive reinforcement way to teach him what to chew on and what not to chew on.
The same holds true with teaching your puppy not to chew shoes, books, carpets and other inappropriate items. As soon as you notice him chewing an item he shouldn’t be, substitute it for an item you want him to chew (a size-appropriate chew toy). Praise him for not chewing inappropriate items. Keep items you don’t want chewed out of harm’s way by puppy proofing your home.
Puppies bark—it’s how they communicate. They bark when feeling threatened, by a leaf blowing through the yard, when they’re happy, and when they’re bored. Barking happens. You do not want to stop your puppy from barking completely, since it’s their only way to communicate. Instead, positively train her to stop barking on ask. Decide on a training phrase or a hand signal, that when given, lets your puppy know you want her to stop barking. Don’t say “no” without a follow up word or phrase, such as “no bark.” It’s easier to teach your puppy to not bark before she starts barking. If you notice her getting ready to bark or see something ahead that may make her bark, say “no bark” or whatever phrase or hand signal you’ve chosen before she begins barking. If she remains quiet, praise her and give her a treat.
If she barks uncontrollably when you walk through the door, ask yourself, “Am I doing something to encourage this behavior.” You certainly don’t want to train your puppy that your coming home is no big deal, but chances are you don’t want her barking herself into a frenzy every time you come home—whether you’ve been gone five minutes or five hours.
A puppy who barks when you’re away because she’s bored or suffering separation anxiety is a harder matter to address; mainly because you’re not there to witness it. Some dogs will watch television or will benefit from having sights and sounds on when they’re home alone. If your puppy is barking because she’s bored or has separation anxiety you will want to talk with your veterinarian to ask for solutions. Tip: Leave an item of your clothing (that has your scent) with your puppy when she’s home alone to help ease her anxiety.
Consider Crate Training
Some pet parents feel their puppies are safer in a crate when they are home alone. Help your dog enjoy time in her crate by making it her refuge. Put in her favorite blanket and bed along with her favorite toys. Let her eat some of her meals and even sleep in the crate when you’re home. Show your puppy the crate is her safe place, not a punishment or a place she is locked up only when you go away.
Some pet parents also feel their puppies won’t soil their crate; this may or may not be true based on the age of the puppy and how long she is left home alone. A puppy can “hold it” for about one hour for every month of age. For example, a one-month old puppy can hold it for an hour. If he’s going to be crated for long periods of time, you may want to arrange for a friend, family member or pet sitter to come and walk your dog during the day.
Puppies are one of the most joyous gifts we can give ourselves. The weather is warming up, flowers are blooming and having a puppy in the house means you will get more exercise and you’ll both be happier. We certainly want everyone who adopts a puppy to understand what lies ahead and is prepared for the good, the potentially bad and the lifetime commitment you’re making to your new furry family member.
Puppies are sometimes surrendered when they outgrow the cute puppy stage but retain the unwelcome puppy behavior. Basic obedience training should be part of your puppy parenthood responsibilities. So be sure when you adopt a puppy that you’re committed to training him to be a family member who brings you joy.
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.