Accredit: Dr. Roger Mugford, pet psychologist, founder of The Company of Animals and trainer to the Queen’s royal corgis
Dr. Roger Mugford, the UK’s leading animal psychologist, and his colleagues, have written these below points, as a guide to provide solutions to the most common puppy challenges. In most cases, the answers are surprisingly simple.
The first few days at home for a puppy or new pet can be stressful. A few simple preparations can make the process easier.
- All essentials should be in place (e.g. water, food, crates, beds, etc.).
- Allow the pet time to adjust to his new environment, and initially try to limit his exposure to visitors, particularly children, to avoid overwhelming him.
- Bring something from his previous home with the new pet, such as a comfort blanket that smells of mom and/or his littermates.
- Homeopathic ‘anxiety’ drops or the Anxiety Wrap, which has been tested and approved by the prestigious Tuft’s University, can help to reduce stress levels.
It is very important to socialize your puppy with other dogs and people from an early age.
Turn him into a socialite! The more new and unusual places he visits in his first weeks, the better.
Good puppy classes should cover topics such as appropriate play, house training and basic commands. It should also teach you (the new pet parent) positive, reward-based methods of dealing with issues like jumping and play-biting. These courses will also give you the opportunity to ask questions about your puppy’s development, health and behavior; gain positive experiences and learn appropriate behavior, and pet socialization.
Puppies only toilet indoors because they do not instinctively understand that it is inappropriate to do so. They will however naturally move away from eating and sleeping areas to toilet which makes them easier to house train.
- When you are not able to supervise him, restrict puppy to his own area – you may wisely decide to use a puppy crate. This area becomes the puppy’s den and providing him with comfort and security. Dogs rarely soil their den, so this will discourage toileting until you present an appropriate opportunity and location – and a chance to reward his successes.
- An untrained pet or puppy needs to be taken to his toileting area frequently. These times should include whenever he wakes up, after eating, after playing, and at approximately hourly intervals. Use a specific word to be associated with toileting, and always reward him when he obliges.
- Never punish if a mistake occurs indoors. The puppy is more likely to develop a negative association of toileting in your presence if you do, rather than associating your displeasure with him going to the toilet indoors.
- Areas in the house that have been soiled should be thoroughly cleaned to remove odors that will otherwise attract your puppy to the same area. Use non ammonia-based cleaning products.
Excessive Biting and Painful Mouthing
It is normal for puppies to use their teeth to carry things and to explore their world, including your hands and delicate skin. You do not, however, want this rough mouthing to continue, since puppy nips could turn into dog bites. Ensure the following:
- No play fighting. Encouraging the puppy or pet to bite your hands and clothes may be fun but you are teaching him that biting people is acceptable. Use a toy, such as a Puppy Kong for playtime.
- Should the pet nip you, cry “ouch”. Most puppies are shocked to hear your cry of distress and will naturally back away. When puppy does this, wait a moment or two and then ask him to come and make friends again.
- If puppy nips again, repeat as above. If this behavior continues, simply exclude and ignore him by either putting him in another room or moving away yourself. This is not a punishment, just a ‘time out’ opportunity for puppy to calm down. The use of a house training line is recommended in these situations.
- Do not over-stimulate or over-excite puppy – this is an especially common mistake among children and men when with a new pet or puppy
- NEVER smack the pet/puppy. Hands should always be instruments of kindness. If puppy has become totally out of control, the hiss of the Pet Corrector™, an auditor training too, can bring back his attention. However, be very sparing in the use of any aversive stimuli when training your puppy.
It is important to remember that a puppy is unable to differentiate between individual people in his behavior. Do not allow your puppy to exhibit any behavior you would not like to be directed at a young child or anyone outside your family.
Chewing and Destructive
Your puppy’s first teeth are only temporary and are eventually replaced by adult teeth as he grows, during which his gums may become sore through inflammation and the eruptive process. Chewing provides relief from teething pain. The following will help:
- Offer toys that his sharp puppy teeth can sink, thereby providing friction on the gum surface. Soft rope, or safely stuffed toys are ideal. Teething toys must be tough, so small pieces cannot be chewed off and swallowed.
- Cold and damp products often provide temporary relief to the pain of teething gums –wetting, chilling or freezing the soft ropes can help.
- Chewing unsafe or unsuitable materials, whether household or personal items, garden plants, or most dangerous of all, electric cabling, will have disastrous consequences. Keep these away from the puppy. A well-timed distraction, like a hiss from the Pet Corrector, is often sufficient. Alternatively, you can use a house training line to guide puppy away from danger. Once you’ve interrupted their unwanted chewing, immediately offer an acceptable alternative such as a chew toy.
- Don’t forget to praise the puppy when he is playing with his own toys to reinforce the desired behavior.
- Many puppies that chew or are destructive when left alone are either over-dependent on human company or simply bored. Providing plenty of safe toys can re-direct and help reduce damage in the home. Stuffing a Kong with tasty treats or your puppy’s usual kibble will further reinforce appropriate chewing behavior.
Dogs greet one another by licking and sniffing around each other’s faces, but of course our faces are well out of reach of puppies. Jumping up enables them to exhibit this natural behavior and also gain our attention.
- Don’t shout “off” or react in any way when he jumps up (i.e. don’t give him the attention he craves). It is better to ignore him so he learns that people only talk to him when his four paws are on the ground.
- Never encourage a pet or puppy to jump up. While this may be cute in a puppy, it is unacceptable in adult dogs and can be dangerous. When greeting the pet, come down to his level so it is easy for him to make contact with you.
- For the pet that insists on jumping up, there should be some well-timed preventative intervention. The use of a house line attached to puppy’s collar will allow you to easily guide him back to the floor where he can be rewarded.
To stop the pet or puppy from becoming anxious in your absence, practice leaving him for short periods from the start, gradually increasing the time that he can be happily left alone. When you are in the house, do not always allow him to have access to you. While this may seem unfair, it will help him become confident and independent. The use of an Anxiety Wrap will also help to keep your dog calm at times when you are out of the room or away from home.
Puppies naturally want to explore their surroundings by using their mouth or teeth. However, puppy needs to learn that some objects and edibles are forbidden.
- Do not leave items lying around – particularly ones that are valuable or fragile.
- Should you see the pet with a stolen item, never chase him. This will simply encourage him to run away. Instead, calmly approach and swap the item for a treat as a reward for giving back his prize. Replace with a suitable toy.
- Accustom the pet or puppy give up objects he is carrying with the prospect of a reward.
- Never feed him scraps at the table and ensure that accessible surfaces are kept free of food.
- Ensure puppy has plenty of mentally-stimulating toys, like the Nina Ottosson interactive games, to keep him occupied.
Puppies are social pack animals that quickly grow into hunters – so what could be more natural than chasing squirrels, rabbits or even the neighbor’s cat? Far worse, chasing farm animals can bring a death sentence on a dog.
- Try to focus your puppy’s chase instincts onto inanimate objects such as a ball, which he can then pick up and retrieve.
- When walking, be exciting and play with the pet to focus his attention on you rather than potential chase subjects.
- Keep the pet on a long or extending lead and allow joggers, cyclists, etc. to pass at a reasonable distance.
- If the pet exhibits a strong desire to chase, seek the help of a trained professional.
Excessive Barking and Whining
Puppies communicate vocally, visually and chemically. A bark can be an expression of distress, curiosity, play, or threat. Puppies quickly learn ways to gain our attention, so try not to respond every time he barks.
- One positive way of reducing barking is to train your puppy to bark and be quiet on command. Teach him to “speak” with the expectation of a food reward and use a “quiet” command when he becomes silent. Always praise him when he responds correctly.
- Clicker training is an effective, fun way to train your dog to do this. The Multi-Clicker is ideal because you can vary the volume of the click and comes with a comprehensive training guide for skilled use.