Raising a puppy is much more than teaching sit! All puppies play bite, jump up, soil carpets, bark and whine in crates, refuse to come, et cetera. This Puppy FAQ page has answers for common puppy questions.
For more tips, please visit the House Training Quick Start Guide and Puppy Quiz pages. Thanks.
Questions & Answers
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- 1. How do I stop my puppy from mouthing and play-biting?
- Mouthing and biting are normal, puppy-to-puppy play behaviors. Play biting is a stage of development and will usually pass unless the people inadvertently increase the behavior by inappropriate play. Instead of wrestling with puppies, children and adults should play games like hide-n-seek, fetch, or find the treat.
Play-biting becomes a nuisance when puppies nip and bite human parts or clothing. Examine your play behaviors and make sure you're not contributing to the problem. If you use your hands to tumble your pup or if you get down on the floor and play rough with your pup, you are telling him that you play just like another puppy would play. Yikes! Puppies bite other pups!
There are several strategies to reduce play-biting. Some tips work well with puppies under 6 months and other methods are better for older pups.
The most successful methods involve redirecting the behavior. For instance, with very young puppies use "Ouch-Withdraw" to teach them about jaw pressure. Say "ouch" when you feel the needle teeth sting, and then ignore the puppy for 10-15 seconds. Re-engage by offering your puppy a suitable item. Praise him for biting the item.
- 2. How do I stop my puppy from eating feces?
- Coprophagia is normal canine behavior. Bitches eat their puppies' stools when their pups are still nursing and unable to leave their den. Although there are many theories about why pups eat feces, there is no definitive scientific evidence to indicate that lack of nutrition is the primary cause. There are some products touted to make stools unappetizing to dogs, but the best method to stop coprophagia is to clean up the feces before your puppy eats it.
- 3. How often should I feed my puppy?
- Most people feed young puppies small meals three times per day. As the puppies age, two meals per day is sufficient. Most people feed adult dogs once or twice each day. Unless there is a medical problem that warrants full time access to food, I never suggest leaving food out all day for any pup or dog. Ask your veterinarian for specific instructions about feeding your pup.
- 4. My puppy is shy, what should I do?
- Dogs progress through a sensitive period of socialization from early puppy hood to 12-16 weeks and should be exposed to as many different types of persons and new surroundings as possible. If your pup exhibits signs of escape or submission in new situations, do not reassure him that it is ok by petting and coddling him. Instead, act silly, play, and distract his attention away from the source of fear.
Don't force him to approach or interact with anything / anyone that seems to be frightening him. The idea is to teach him that new situations are fun and there is nothing to fear.
- 5. How can I tell if my puppies are fighting or playing?
- When puppies or dogs play, they "trade roles". Dog A will chase Dog B and then Dog B will chase Dog A. The same goes for mugging. Dog A will be on top and then Dog B will be on top. If one dog is constantly hiding or trying to escape, the play is out of hand. It's best to randomly interrupt the play, even if they are playing nicely, and ask for a few sits or downs. This helps to teach them about self control. Teaching your dog to go from an excited state to a relaxed state is a good idea!
- 6. How can I teach my puppy what "No" means?
- I'm guessing "no" is the most commonly used word in homes with new pups. I know it was in my home! Although "no" can be a good interrupter, saying it doesn't really give your pup any helpful information about what behavior he should be performing and where he should perform it.
Some times you need an interrupter to stop behaviors–that's okay –just be sure to redirect your puppy to perform an acceptable behavior and then pay him for it!
Dog training is a process, not an event. Over time, you can teach your dog "no" by your actions. For example, when you puppy places his feet up on you, turn around and walk away. This tells him that placing feet on people makes the people go away, which is "no" in his language. Don't forget to pay him for not jumping up.
- 7. My puppy jumps up on people. How do I stop my puppy from jumping up?
- Puppies jump up to greet us. Most of us reach out with our hands and either pet the puppy or push the puppy away. Both of these actions by people will increase jumping up behaviors. The puppy is jumping up for attention and, from her point of view, it works.
Teaching your puppy to sit is one tactic to reduce jumping up. Avoiding games that involve jumping up is another tip.
In the meantime, stop your puppy from practicing rude behaviors. Attach a leash when she is loose in the house. Let it drag behind her. Before your puppy jumps up, place your foot on the leash. If she tries to jump up she will fail. Once she stops jumping, praise her for four-on-the-floor!
- 8. Why does my puppy try to mount my leg?
- Mounting by puppies is usually a social, not a sexual behavior. Puppies mount other puppies long before they reach sexual maturity, which is around 6 months. Some profess it to be related to dominance but in most cases, it's usually play or attention seeking behavior. More than likely, your mounting pup is telling you he needs more physical and mental stimulation.
When your puppy mounts people or objects, label the behavior and immediately redirect the puppy. For instance, puppy mounts – you say "Rude, that's rude", and then tell your puppy to sit or engage him in a game of fetch. Be sure to pay that rascal for good behavior!
- 9. My puppy knows sit, but when people visit, she ignores me. How can I make her listen to me when guests come over?
- This is a question I hear daily. Teaching your puppy basic commands is the easy part. Now you need to practice in many situations. Start off by practicing with little bits of distractions, like a family member walking past. Increase the distractions when your dog can succeed at the current level. For example, the next level might be the family member skipping past. This is called proofing.
Before you can succeed, it's helpful to know how to communicate what you want and how and to motivate your puppy to want the same thing. In addition, you should put a reward system into place and teach your pup a few alternate behaviors that allow him to be gleeful without jumping up.
- 10. My puppy runs out the door and refuses to come when I call him.
- This is another common topic. Off leash recall is an advanced skill. Some dogs naturally come when called; most don't. Most pups will bolt out an open door until you teach them otherwise. You'll need to teach and practice both wait and come.
Before you can teach, it's helpful to have a communication system and a reward system in place. In the meantime, attach a leash to prevent your pup from perfecting unwanted behaviors.
- 11. My puppy whines and barks when she is in her crate. How can I teach her to be quiet?
- Teaching your puppy to relax in a crate is a process, not an event. Crate introductions are best achieved over a long weekend. Before you lock your pup inside a crate and walk away, introduce your pup to the crate in small doses. Feed her in the crate. Walk away for a few minutes and then return before she is done eating.
Gradually increase your "away time" to include a short period after she's finished eating. Next, gradually increase the amount of time your pup is crated in your absence. Giving your puppy a unique treat when she is in the crate is another way to form good associations with the crate.
- 12. My older dog drools when he is near my new puppy. Why is my older dog drooling?
- Sometimes an older dog will drool when a new puppy is introduced to the family. If your older dog hasn’t been around puppies since he was a puppy, he might drool when he is near the puppy. This is a result of classical or Pavlovian conditioning.
The last time your older dog was near a very young puppy, he was a puppy too! All the puppies were nursing. He formed an association with the sight of young puppies and his mother’s milk. Your new puppy triggers drooling in your older dog because of these early associations formed by classical conditioning. The behavior is nothing to worry about. It will pass in a few days.