Welcoming a new puppy is an exciting time, but when their antics lead to unwanted behavior, you can get frustrated and annoyed. Our team at Animal Medical Hospital of Naples wants to help by providing tips to prevent your puppy from misbehaving.
#1: Socialize your puppy early
Socializing your puppy appropriately can help prevent issues such as excessive barking and fear aggression, and will help them become a happier, more confident adult dog. The goal is to expose your puppy to as many different people, pets, places, sounds, smells, sensations, and situations as possible. Puppies between 3 and 14 weeks of age are most receptive to these new experiences, but socialization should continue past this age. Steps to properly socialize your puppy include:
- Let them explore — When you bring your puppy home, let them sniff and explore every nook and cranny. Supervise their investigations to ensure they stay safe, but expose them to tiled and carpeted areas in your home, sounds such as the washing machine and vacuum cleaner, and sights such as the television playing and the wildlife outside.
- Handle them — Start handling your puppy right away, to ensure they get used to being touched all over. Put your fingers in their mouth to help prepare them for dental care, touch and hold their paws and their ears to prepare them for nail trims and ear cleanings, and pet them all over to help prepare them for veterinary visits.
- Keep sessions short — Ensure your puppy enjoys their socialization sessions from start to finish by taking them home and letting them rest as soon as they start acting tired. Keep initial sessions to 10 to 15 minutes.
- Don’t force your puppy — If your puppy expresses fear, immediately remove them from the situation, slow down the process, and introduce them to the experience again later.
#2: Crate train your puppy
Crate training your puppy can help prevent issues such as separation anxiety, and can also help when house training, since puppies don’t like to do their business where they sleep. If introduced appropriately, the crate can become the safe zone where your puppy can relax and enjoy time alone. Steps to properly crate train your puppy include:
- Choose the right size — The crate should be big enough that your puppy can stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not much bigger, so that they cannot use one end to rest and the other to go potty. You can purchase a crate that fits your puppy’s adult size, and use adjustable dividers to avoid needing to buy different sized crates as your puppy grows.
- Choose the right location — Your puppy’s crate should be placed somewhere quiet enough they can rest, but not far enough away that they will feel isolated. A living room corner is an ideal location.
- Leave the door open to start — Let your puppy explore their new space, first leaving the door open. Place comfortable bedding, toys, and treats in the crate, to ensure a positive experience.
- Close the door — Once your puppy seems comfortable spending time in the crate with the door open, close the door, staying close by, to monitor their response.
- Keep initial sessions short — Always give your puppy a potty break before they go in their crate. Keep the initial session short, gradually increasing their crate time. A good rule of thumb is to translate their age in months to the number of hours they can comfortably be left in the crate.
#3: Don’t reward your puppy for inappropriate behavior
When you pet your puppy when they jump up on you, or give them a morsel off your plate when they beg, you are inadvertently rewarding their inappropriate behavior. Preventing these behaviors from the beginning is the best way to ensure your puppy learns how to behave appropriately. Steps to prevent these issues include:
- Jumping up — When your puppy jumps up on you, turn around and stand still. If they continue to jump, walk away, and pet and praise them when they keep all paws on the ground. Ensure your friends and family members know the rules before they approach your puppy.
- Begging — Never feed your puppy people food, and put them in their crate during meal times, so they can’t snag dropped tidbits.
#4: Puppy proof your home
Puppies need to chew, especially to relieve their teething pain, but you can teach them to chew on appropriate objects as opposed to your belongings. Ensure your puppy can’t access any items you don’t want in their mouth. Other steps to prevent inappropriate chewing include:
- Provide chew toys — Ensure your puppy has many chew toys, so they aren’t forced to go searching for a forbidden object to get between their teeth.
- Catch them in the act — When you catch your puppy chewing on an off-limits object, clap your hands to get their attention.
- Redirect — Once you have their attention, take away the forbidden item, and replace it with an appropriate chew toy.
- Don’t punish — Never punish your puppy after you find an object they have chewed. They won’t be able to connect the punishment with the incident, and will only learn to be afraid of you.
Your puppy will grow up as a well-behaved, confident adult dog if you take time to train them properly. If you are concerned about your puppy’s behavior, contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) team at Animal Medical Hospital of Naples, to schedule an appointment.