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Posted on 03-14-2016

5 Puppy Behavior Tips

Puppies just like children are born to take in their environment and learn. The entire staff at Chattahoochee Animal Clinic believe that the earlier you get started showing that new puppy their boundaries and limitations, while encouraging their natural curiosity and willingness to please, will result in a lifetime of emotionally balanced canine companions. We are here to support and encourage the development of strong bonds between puppies and their new families. 

1. Socialization is time sensitive

Puppies develop very quickly. In fact, by the time you get your puppy they have had quite a lot of experiences in those 6-8 weeks of life. Each experience leaving an impression of what's to come and how to react to each experience. One of the many reasons it is very important that you do your homework and interview, visit and research a reputable place to adopt your puppy.

Between the ages of 4-14 weeks, puppies are more prepared to accept new people and experiences than any other time in development. Early exposure to a wide variety of people, healthy puppies and friendly vetted dogs, as well as to assorted sounds, sights, and scents, is crucial for proper development. If possible, introduce puppies to other species in a safe controlled environment (ie other household pets, cats, livestock, birds). Basically, this is the period to introduce puppies to anything that they may encounter as an adult.

Even before the vaccination series is complete, puppies can be safely socialized. Precautions should be taken not to expose your new puppy to disease. You should allow your puppy to interact with healthy balanced and vaccinated puppies and dogs. The risk for contracting a life-threatening disease is less likely than the risk for developing behavioral problems due to inadequate socialization later in life.

Behavior problems are the number one reason that pets are relinquished to shelters, so early socialization is critical; it cannot wait until the puppy is fully vaccinated.

2. Training Style Based on Individual Puppy Temperments

All puppies are not created equal, and 8 week old puppies are not clean slates. Remember they were born in a very different environment than they are now. Genetics, diet, early illness, and early handling are some of the factors that can affect behavioral development. Certain breeds have different ways they interpret their surroundings. For example herding breeds tend to want to herd just about anything...even kids.

Normal, healthy puppies explore calmly or playfully, exhibit friendly behavior, are responsive when invited to interact, and can tolerate handling. Puppies that exhibit fear or aggression or are unwilling to explore or interact need immediate help.

When choosing your next puppy, look for the following are signs, which can indicate stress and instability; yawning, lip licking, looking sleepy, refusing treats, ears pinned back, tail pressed tightly between legs. Socialization may need to be done at a slower pace, but it cannot be delayed. Removing puppies from "stressful" situations may encourage the behavior. It is best that you create some space where the puppy can be more at ease and capable of accepting their surroundings, but certainly do not completely remove from the situation. 

3. Our Advice to Prevent Many Problems

Puppies may exhibit normal yet undesirable behaviors (ie jumping up, mouthing, destructive behavior, inappropriate elimination) that can be managed or prevented.

Jumping up, is not cool

  • Teach puppies, even at an early age, to sit. Take a treat and point it up and towards the pup's muzzle, until it sits. As pet sits, saying the word "sit", creates an association with the word and your expectations.
  • Before anyone pets your puppy, have them sit. The petting is a reward for sitting patiently. Initially, holding toys or treats can keep puppies' attention until they sit.
  • For overzealous puppies, you can take the leash and step on it with short enough slack to prevent the action of jumping. This helps when it is just you and you need both hands. The act of jumping unsuccessfully and getting attention only when they are following the rules of engagement is a lesson all to itself. 

Prevent destructive behavior

  • Puppies explore the world with their mouths and benefit from having an assortment of toys that are regularly rotated to retain novelty.
  • When supervision is not available, puppies should be confined in a safe area or crated with a safe chew toy or long-lasting treat. Food-dispensing toys keep puppies busy - at least 1 meal a day can be fed in a food dispensing toy.

Prevent inappropriate elimination

  • Supervision is critical. Get on a schedule that works for you both and stick to it! Puppies like kids need consistency.
  • Active puppies need to urinate as often as every 15 minutes, if given access to water all day long. Puppies typically eliminate immediately after they wake up and within 10-20 minutes of eating. 
  • When supervision is not possible, puppies should be confined to a safe area or preferably a crate. This is not cruel. Your dog's ancestors slept and left their pups in dens. Small secure areas are instinctively their choice of places to call home, so make that crate their safe place.
  • If puppies need to be left alone for extended periods, take into consideration when they have eaten and drank, so as to eliminate their need to relieve themselves in the crate. Using indoor pee-pads are a very confusing thing for a puppy. They are allowed to eliminate indoors, but not really. It is black and white with a puppy. During the potty training period, you will need to modify your schedule to fit the needs of the puppy. Just like potty training a child, you need to stay ahead of their needs and modify your time to fit their needs. 
  • If a "mistake" occurs despite these preventive strategies, puppies should not be scolded, they are still learning. Sometimes harsh reprimands will create confusion and fear.
  • Clean up accidents thoroughly with enzyme based cleaners.

4. A​ll Puppies Can Benefit From Appropriate Training

All puppies benefit from a structured, reward based training program. Training should begin immediately; early training teaches puppies how to receive information from humans. Puppies learn with all interactions.

We have several certified trainers that we tend to recommend depending on the behavioral needs of the pet. It should all start with a conversation with your veterinarian, in the case that behavior has anything to do with a medical reason.

5. Ask Us About Potential Behavioral Concerns

We can certainly help prevent basic behavioral problems. It is when behavior and behavior modification does not seem to work or even becomes worse regardless of training efforts, that we need to investigate further. Even young puppies may suffer from serious behavioral illnesses. This is why it is so important to have an open line of communication with your veterinarian, in some cases it is never too soon to refer a young patient to a veterinary behaviorist if the diagnosis is not clear.

Below is a checklist of unacceptable behaviors that can trigger a bigger problem in the future. These may be tolerated for the short term while they learn, but do not mistaken these for acceptable behavior that one day your puppy will outgrow. In fact, without intervention, these behaviors can strengthen because they can be self-rewarding and are therefore regularly reinforced.

  • Jumping up
  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Mouthing/Biting
  • Destructive behavior
  • Difficulty housebreaking

​Always, always contact us with any issues. We hope this blog helps with at least the preliminary basics of puppy training. If you ever have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help. 

Until next time,

Dr Marcus Smith

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